With Congress in the grip of budgetary issues, don’t expect serious legislative action on much of anything for the time being, Indiana Sen. Richard “Dick” Lugar told recreational vehicle industry leaders during last week’s (June 6) reception at the U.S. Capitol.
“It is no secret that we are involved – in fact, all we are involved in right now – in the Senate are debates on the budget, on the debt ceiling, and, likewise, how we are going to be able to afford so-called entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid – even how we will finance defense budgets with our country’s very ambitious goals,” Lugar said.
“But not to worry,” he added, extracting a few chuckles from his audience in the Congressional Atrium of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. “This is all that occupies us (Congress) right now. So, even as you are thinking through amendments, whether it’s with regard to HUD or trade or whatever else that may help the industry, be assured that nothing will happen on the floor to it at this particular time.
“However, you ought to think about the future and begin crafting either regulations that the administration might change by itself or amendments to bills that may eventually come along to deal with taxes or something that people find essential to pass. I say all this in as good a humor as I can because it’s really grimsville out there.”
Lugar, a veteran lawmaker who, if reelected, is likely to become President Pro Tem of the Senate – third in line for the U.S. presidency – provided one of the highlights of an evening that also included a tour of the U.S. Capitol and a stirring tribute to veteran industry executive Jim Sheldon. A Monaco executive and immediate past chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) board of directors, Sheldon was toasted by RVIA’s brass as well as his long-term boss, Monaco RV LLC President Kay Toolson.
Otherwise, Lugar’s comments were focused on the RV industry itself.
“We’re impressed with the tremendous vitality and strength that the recreational vehicle industry brings to our state,” said Lugar, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976 and won a sixth term in 2006 with 87% of the vote. That was the fourth consecutive victory by a two-thirds majority for Lugar, who may wind up facing northern Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly in a closely watched general election race.
“Depending upon which year you calculate the statistics,” he noted, “at least 79% of the nation’s RV’s are produced in Indiana. So, it’s a tremendously important part of our manufacturing base and, likewise, a creative base with regard to the automotive industry and vehicles in particular.
“But it’s a base that has, at least throughout the years that I’ve served in Congress, always had potential problems with regulations and overregulation as well as tariffs and trade because this is an industry that has an international focus both in terms of imported parts and exported products. So, I simply pledge once again that our office will continue to work carefully and precisely with each one of you as firms as well as with the RVIA group as a whole.”
Lugar, in summary, said he’s enjoyed his interaction with RV industry people over the years. “I appreciate your personal visits to our office and the opportunities I’ve had in Indiana to converse with you to try to think through how the industry has recovered from a terrifically difficult set of circumstances which hit all vehicles,” said Lugar. “But the situation for the recreational vehicle industry, which is so special for Indiana, was especially grievous for us.
“I congratulate you all on a remarkable comeback and the ability to hire more people and the ability to see potential markets.”