IN THE MIDDLE of Week II of the lame-duck session of Congress, we are still at least several days away from decision time on most of the obnoxious pieces of legislation lobbyists are trying to get through in the closing days.
On the House side, Speaker O'Neill has a commitment to let the local-content bill, sought by the United Auto Workers, reach the floor. A near-majority of congressmen has promised to support this protectionist measure; many did so when it seemed to have little chance to pass. Will they be willing to reconsider now that their votes may be more than symbolic?
Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Howard Baker has said he may call up the Apple Computer bill, the Alaska Railroad giveaway and the Shipping Act on Thursday or Friday. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and perhaps others will try to filibuster these bills and, if that happens, Mr. Baker will probably withdraw them without a vote. There likely will be a vote, however, on whether doctors and dentists should be exempt from regulation by the Federal Trade Commission. (This would not exempt them from other forms of antitrust enforcement, as we mistakenly suggested on Friday.) On this one, which may come up late this week or early next, the question is whether senators, unlike House members, have the guts to vote against two of the biggest contributing PACs in Washington.
The Senate may never get around to considering one piece of dreadful legislation, the bill passed in Sen. Jesse Helms's (R-N.C.) Agriculture Committee to preempt strict state regulation of pesticides. Sen. Robert Stafford (R-Vt.), who has been interested in environmental issues for years, opposes preemption of state regulation, and he will also seek to amend it by requiring labeling of all chemical additives and pesticide residues in tobacco products. Sen. Helms took a lot of flak in North Carolina earlier this year for supporting the tax bill, which included an increase in the levy on tobacco; he and his colleague John East were hailed by North Carolina Democrats the next day as "the tobacco tax twins." North Carolina is the No. 1 tobacco state, and Mr. Helms is not likely to risk antagonizing tobacco producers twice in one year; so he is unlikely to ask Sen. Baker to call up the measure.