It is obvious what has been apparent for months: 2020 will be an unusually difficult year for legislative business, possibly a historically difficult one.
Even though the impeachment process is concluded quickly, the partisan divide in Congress will ensure that Republicans and Democrats will find little agreement on any proposed legislation, no matter the issue.
This is particularly bad news for the tire industry, which is dependent on Congress to act on many issues of vital importance, ranging from trade policy to taxation to environmental and safety regulation. Though unquestionably a bulwark of U.S. commerce, tire makers and dealers must work especially hard to make their voices heard amid the representatives of even larger industries.
One issue, more than any other, symbolizes the impasse in Congress: infrastructure.
The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act sunsets Sept. 30, at the end of the 2020 fiscal year. If Congress does not replace the FAST Act with new legislation, the nation will be without a mechanism for transportation funding.
As of December 2019, there were two proposals for infrastructure funding reauthorization before Congress, according to the Tire Industry Association.
One would simply reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund, which is replenished by a tax on motor fuels, at the current rate. This would at least provide some money, but it would be inadequate.
The second, America's Infrastructure Act of 2019, would provide funding for all U.S. infrastructure—not just roads and bridges, but also hospitals, schools and electric grids.
One major problem with this plan, according to TIA, is its total cost, which could be as high as $15 trillion to $25 trillion. Another is that highway users almost certainly would pay a wildly disproportionate share of the cost.
One proposal would have the federal government turn over 47,000 miles of interstate highway to the states to turn over to private contractors to convert to toll roads. Tolls on previously privatized bridges alone go as high as $20.
Other proposals would raise the fuel tax as high as $3 per gallon or re-establish the federal excise tax on passenger tires and tread rubber.
This, of course, presupposes that Congress will reach any sort of agreement on infrastructure reauthorization. Failure to do so will mean further, possibly catastrophic deterioration of the nation's roads and bridges. This would mean massive disruptions in transport at immeasurable cost to U.S. commerce, motorists and consumers, not to mention substantial increases in highway injuries and deaths.
Federal government dysfunction in 2020 already is harming U.S. interests. If Congress fails to reach sensible agreement on infrastructure funding this year, every American will feel the pain.