InterviewUS election threatens business climate

03 November 2008 21:04  [Source: ICIS news]

US voters stand in line for electionsWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US appears poised to elect what one chemical industry leader on Monday termed “the most anti-business federal government” in recent history and one that is likely to raise tax and regulatory burdens.

 

On the eve of the US national elections being held on Tuesday, a wide range of public opinion polls give the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a perhaps decisive edge over his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

 

Perhaps more significantly, according to industry and business observers, the outcome of Tuesday’s congressional elections is likely to give Democrats even greater majority control in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

 

Democrats are expected to gain as many as 30 seats in the House, which would boost their grip on that chamber to a 60% majority with 263 Democrats against 172 Republicans in the 435-member body.

 

More critical, say business sources, is the real prospect that Democrats could secure 60 seats in the 100-member US Senate where they have held only a slim 51-seat majority since the 2006 mid-term elections.

 

If the Democrats hold a 60-seat majority in the Senate, they would be able to override minority attempts to block legislation and even force some bills into law despite a presidential veto.

 

“I think we are looking at what will be the most anti-business federal government in many years,” said Chris Jahn, president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD).

 

Jahn, who served as a senior staff advisor in the US Senate before returning to the private sector, said his gloomy view of the elections likely outcome is not partisan.

 

“Whether Obama or McCain wins the White House, I think federal policies over the next several years will be very anti-business,” he said, “because there will be a much larger, anti-business majority in Congress and no one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue [the White House] to act as a check on the pent-up ambitions in Congress.”

 

Jahn expects that a stronger Democratic majority in Congress beginning next year will mean passage of more stringent anti-terrorism chemical security legislation that will include a federal mandate for inherently safer technology (IST) as a security requirement.

 

In environmental matters, he worries that the new Congress will take the opportunity to reshape the 30-year-old US chemicals regulatory law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as a US version of Reach, the EU’s programme for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals.

 

“Certainly there will be far more regulations coming across the board,” Jahn said of what is expected to be a more Democrat-controlled Congress.

 

In addition, he expects higher taxes on businesses and greater energy costs if, as seems likely, Congress and the new president move to implement a cap-and-trade climate control law.

 

“If you want to paint a picture of gloom,” Jahn said, “put increased regulations and higher taxes on top of an economy that is already struggling.”

 

In anticipation of a new Congress more willing to impose regulations and taxes on business, Jahn said NACD is going to beef-up its advocacy team and work to raise more grass-roots involvement in federal policymaking by the association’s member companies.

 

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect


By: Joe Kamalick
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