This was a vote on a motion to suspend the House rules and pass H.R. 2751, which provided tax incentives or mass transit vouchers to consumers who trade in vehicles that are at least eight years old for ones getting better fuel economy, that cost less than $35,000, and that were assembled in North America. The legislation was nicknamed the “Cash for Clunkers'' bill. The cash incentives generally ranged between $3,000 and $5,000. The bill was supported by, among others, U.S. automakers, car dealers, and the UAW. Some foreign automakers expressed opposition.
Rep. Sutton (D-OH), who was leading the effort on behalf of S.2751, said the purpose of the bill was “to accelerate motor fuel savings nationwide and provide incentives to registered owners of high polluting automobiles to replace such automobiles with new fuel efficient and less polluting automobiles.” She said she was supporting the bill “on behalf of the environment, as we turn the corner to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve fuel economy, and to help reduce our reliance on foreign oil (and). . .on behalf of the consumers . . . who continue to struggle during this global recession. “
Sutton noted that 2009 auto sales were down nearly 42 percent below the 2005 level and said “this decline jeopardizes our country's largest manufacturing industry. These are not ordinary times. These times call for bold action. Three to 5 million jobs are at risk. Auto-related jobs number in the thousands in every State in our Nation, and . . . this bill is far more than about just cars. It's about people.” She claimed that the legislation “will shore up millions of jobs and stimulate local economies . . . .”
A motion to suspend the rules and pass a bill is a procedural mechanism that is usually employed to gain approval for measures that the House leadership deems to be not very controversial. There is a limited time period for debate. Amendments cannot be offered. A two thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
Rep. Cantor (R-VA), the second ranking House Republican, opposed the bill, although he said it was “reluctant opposition”. He first said that he had hoped the bill would not have come to the floor under the suspension of the rules procedure that prevented Members from offering amendments. He said he wanted to offer an amendment “to allow individuals to use the credit for the purchase of a fuel-efficient, previously owned vehicle. Even after a generous credit, for many American families, a new car is financially out of reach. Yet with gas prices rising again, these families deserve the same opportunity to upgrade their current vehicle to a more fuel-efficient model.”
Cantor then noted that “there is already a substantial inventory of previously owned, fuel-efficient vehicles on dealer lots available for purchase (and that) . . . the livelihood of tens of thousands of Americans depend on the used car market. Used car sales outnumber new car sales 3-1 in the U.S., and there are more than twice as many used car dealers as new car dealers in this country. Treating cars that meet the same fuel-efficiency standards differently, based on whether they are new or previously owned, effectively picks winners and losers among these dealers. Given the difficult economic situation faced by all Americans, I do not believe that it is wise or necessary to reward some Americans while punishing others.”
Rep. Flake (R-AZ) also opposed the bill. He said it represented an effort by the government “to manufacture demand . . . It is defying the laws of economics and saying we can manufacture enough demand to keep the auto industries afloat without other measures that they need to take to stay afloat. We can't simply manufacture demand any more than we can defy any of the other laws of economics. “
The bill passed by a vote of 298-119. Two hundred thirty-nine Democrats and fifty-nine Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and ten Republicans and nine Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent on to the Senate the “Cash for Clunkers” bill.