WASHINGTON—With Democrats in control of both Congress and the White House for at least the next two years, the business of the federal government is going to look different.
Democrats hold the Senate by the slimmest of margins, with Vice President Kamala Harris as president of the Senate able to break any potential ties with her vote. The House margin for Democrats shrunk during the last election, a time when many thought the party would solidify its hold instead of giving ground to Republicans.
President Joe Biden, who took office Jan. 20, has put out plenty of signals about what he wants to accomplish, and some of that work could happen quite quickly.
A key priority viewed by the tire industry is an expected federal infrastructure bill that the new administration wants to get passed within the first 100 days of inauguration. Tires and rubber are tied to infrastructure through their use in transportation. Used tires also are recycled in various ways for construction projects.
Roy Littlefield III, CEO of the Tire Industry Association, sees infrastructure out front on the nation's agenda as Biden takes control. But he warns that funding for such work could partially come at the expense of the tire industry in the form of higher and new federal tire taxes.
There's also talk about creating a vehicle miles traveled tax to raise additional money during a time when there are concerns about declining fuel tax revenue due to the increasing use of electric vehicles.
This type of added tax could serve to dampen use of vehicles, as owners will be more aware of their travel and how it could impact their pocketbooks.
"Given the industry we are in, we don't want to be supporting anything that would reduce miles traveled," Littlefield said.
Biden and Democrats already have signaled plans to issue more direct stimulus aid to citizens around the country. It's still a bit unclear about what additional aid could be in store for businesses.
The federal government, in late December, re-upped the Paycheck Protection Program, pumping another $284 billion into the program and allowing certain companies a second crack at the funding.
"It's just going to depend on how the next few months play out," Roy Littlefield IV, director of government affairs at TIA, said about future stimulus.
Factors include how fast vaccines are rolled out to the masses and when some sort of normalcy can return, he said.
"It might not be necessary. But right now, we're still at record cases every day, record deaths every day, record hospitalizations. Until we get that under control, businesses are just dying. I would think there will be a lot more done for businesses, but it's just unclear."
Whatever actions are taken, observers believe the workings of Washington will run smoother now that one party is in control.
When planning for what changes the election could bring, the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association figured the most probable outcome would be Democrats controlling both chambers and the presidency. And that's how the election played out.
"We see a lot of opportunity here. The scenario is actually the one we considered the most likely based on everything we knew before Nov. 3," USTMA CEO Anne Forristall Luke said. "We did a significant amount of scenario planning around this."
The Biden administration likely will increase focus on areas including climate policy, surface transportation and infrastructure development. Other key areas include COVID-19 and economic recovery and sustainability, she said. "We feel good about the work we have done to position the tire manufacturing industry well in those discussions."
Advancements in tires, Luke said, can be central in discussions on climate and sustainability as they play such an important role in transportation.
One important but often overlooked aspect of the economic troubles brought on by COVID-19 is the economic impact on local and state governments.
With budgets being stressed due to lower revenue, Luke expressed concern that efforts to fund scrap tire recycling and recovery could be hampered if cash is diverted from those programs to cover other expenses. That's why it is important for future federal aid to include money for state and local governments.