By the SEMA Washington, D.C., office
While the news from our nation's capital is frequently divided along party lines, SEMA continues to focus on maintaining and expanding our relationships with principled and pragmatic members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who support the industry. We pride ourselves on working with lawmakers who have the courage to vote based on principle rather than the way that will cause them the least amount of political damage. Of note, U.S. Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez (D-WA), who comes from the repair side of the automotive aftermarket, stands out amongst freshman lawmakers for her willingness to vote her conscience. While SEMA has worked closely with Rep. Gluesenkamp Pérez on H.R. 906, the "Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act" (REPAIR Act), an issue she is incredibly passionate about and champions both publicly and in personal interactions with key lawmakers, we are most impressed by her willingness to take hard votes even when she knows they won't be popular with vocal constituencies in her party and district.
In May, Rep. Glusenkamp Pérez came under attack by progressives from around the country, who left negative reviews online about Dean's Car Care in Portland, Oregon, the automotive repair business and machine shop that she and her husband own. Sadly, this act of retribution was done because the Congresswoman voted with Republicans on a bill to repeal the Biden Administration's student loan relief initiative. Rep. Glusenkamp Pérez, however, voted against the bill because it did nothing to help invest in technical education. "Expansions of student debt forgiveness need to be matched dollar for dollar with investments in career and technical education," said Rep. Gluesenkamp Pérez. "I can't support the first without the other. The severe shortage of trade workers needs to be seen and treated as a national priority. It's about respect."
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the "Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act" (H.R. 1435) from Representative John Joyce (R-PA). The bill, if enacted into law, would prevent the EPA from granting a waiver to California for regulations that would ban the sale of new motor vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) in the state by 2035. Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez was one of only eight Democratic members to vote for the bill, which passed by a margin of 220 to 190.
Rep. Gluesenkamp Pérez is one of the lead sponsors of H.R. 906, the "Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act" (REPAIR Act). Her support of the issue stems from being a small business owner and from a common-sense perspective. "It's also an environmental issue because we're filling up our landfills with disposable cars. On the other hand, I can make a Honda Civic run for 500,000 miles if I have access to the parts to fix it. We're basically being locked out of the next generation of service," said Rep. Gluesenkamp Pérez in an interview with SEMA News earlier this year. SEMA and our coalition partners have diligently ensured the bill maintains an equal number of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors. The REPAIR Act is a common-sense bill that protects our right to repair vehicles that positively impacts Americans of all political affiliations. We're doing everything possible to ensure partisan politics don't adversely impact it.
Maintaining bipartisanship in legislation is essential to our success, especially in a divided Congress with Republicans controlling the U.S. House and Democrats the U.S. Senate. By ensuring our legislation remains bipartisan, we increase the chances of Republican-led House bills being heard in the Senate and vice versa, which is essential for bills to pass both houses of Congress and make it to the President's desk. SEMA is committed to working with any lawmaker willing to stand up and support the specialty aftermarket industry.
Regardless of the 2024 election cycle outcome, SEMA will be prepared to stand up for the industry and work with allies in the party that controls the House and Senate. Our advocacy efforts continue to look to ensure the specialty aftermarket continues to thrive. SEMA just released an economic impact report that shows the aftermarket industry supports more than 1.3 million U.S. jobs and has a $336.9 billion economic impact in this country. SEMA's mission is to ensure the industry continues to thrive and be a major player in advancing our priorities. As we round a corner in automotive history, we want to ensure that this isn't just a moment but a movement.