Government shutdown would impact auto regulation

by admin January 20, 2018 at 8:34 pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) arrive at a news conference with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill on Friday. Photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

UPDATED: 1/20/18 7:16 am ET – adds overnight news

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government shutdown could have a broad impact on automotive regulatory activities, but next week’s NAFTA talks — negotiations crucial to the industry’s future — are expected to continue as scheduled.

The government shut down at midnight on Friday after Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a last-minute deal to fund its operations, divided in a bitter dispute over immigration and border security. Congress has been unable to pass a funding measure for fiscal year 2018. 

For full coverage in Washington from Reuters, click here.

The U.S. will participate in North American Free Trade Agreement talks next week in Montreal as scheduled, a spokeswoman for the U.S. trade representative said by e-mail on Friday, 

The U.S. trade representative plans to send a full delegation to Montreal for the NAFTA talks, but other agency functions could be curtailed.

According to Office of Management and Budget contingency plans, only 75 people are required to run the agency during a shutdown. The agency employs about 240 people. Other agencies that send advisers to trade talks, such as the Commerce Department, must decide if personnel will be limited.

In a press briefing, however, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration will carry forward funds and encourage agencies to use transfer authority to keep more government functions operating.

“The Obama administration weaponized the shutdown in 2013,” he said. “They could have made the shutdown … much less impactful, but they chose to make it worse … for political purposes.”

Under the Office of Management and Budget’s operations plan, if there is a lapse in funding, more than half of NHTSA’s 587 employees would be furloughed. The agency’s highway safety r&d activities would continue. Areas that could be delayed or suspended would include vehicle safety activities such as rulemaking, enforcement, research, data analysis, and consumer testing programs. Specifically:

  • Important rulemaking, including those with congressional deadlines, would be delayed.
  • New car assessment testing and related star ratings to consumers may be delayed.
  • Defects investigations would be suspended and incoming information on possible defects from manufacturers and consumers would not be reviewed.
  • Compliance testing of vehicles and equipment would be delayed.
  • Vehicle safety research on crash avoidance technologies, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, occupant protection and alcohol detection would be delayed.
  • Routine defects and recall information from manufacturers and consumers would not be reviewed.

The chairman and staff director of the Senate Commerce Committee will decide on Monday whether a field hearing on regulation of autonomous vehicles will go ahead in conjunction with the Washington Auto Show at the Washington Convention Center, a staff member said.

Organizers will have to move their preshow policy forum, “Mobility Talks International,” scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the Russell Senate Office Building, because the building will not be open to the public if the government is closed. Auto show spokesman Chris Hosford said the group has made backup plans.

As for other panels on Wednesday and Thursday, “We are optimistic that the speakers and panelists who work for the U.S. government will be able to attend and, at this time, no one has cancelled,” he wrote in an email.

Documents show that the EPA will operate on a limited basis with 781 employees, down from the normal work force of 14,449. Employees exempted from furlough are those involved with health and safety.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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