The U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, just before recessing for an August holiday, that would forbid the use of appropriated funds to “purchase passenger motor vehicles other than those manufactured by Ford, GM, or Chrysler.” The bill does not require that the vehicles be made in the United States, so cars manufactured by BMW, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and others might be excluded from government fleets, but not necessarily a Chrysler made in Mexico or a Ford made in Germany. Congressmen may have been reasoning that cars made by companies effectively owned by the government should be given preference, but that thinking would have excluded Ford. Ford, then, would have been excluded because it was the only one of the “Big Three” American manufacturers that did not require a government bailout. It would have been politically impossible to exclude from government purchases the one traditional American manufacturer that has managed its own way through the economic crisis. The bill, otherwise, favors neither American workers nor vehicles made in the United States.
This amendment is unlikely to become law because the Obama Administration almost certainly will oppose it, as will Senators representing the thousands of U.S. workers who make Toyotas, Hondas, Hyundais, BMWs and the cars of other foreign-owned manufacturers in the United States. Nevertheless, the amendment is a good indication of current protectionist sentiment in the U.S. Congress. The Financial Times quoted Dr. Elliot J. Feldman last week condemning the Buy Ford, GM or Chrysler amendment.