By Kevin Bogardus - 12/15/10 12:51 AM EST
President Obama notched two hard-fought legislative victories this year with the passage of the healthcare and financial-services reform bills.
But the wins for the White House didn’t necessarily translate to defeats for the affected industries.
Healthcare and financial services were not the only sectors that kept K Street busy this year. The White House resurrected a stalled free trade agreement with Korea, long supported by business. The Obama administration pushed cuts to the enormous defense budget but ended up with a mixed record after heavy lobbying by Pentagon contractors. And watchdog groups and consumer advocates saw victories with bans against pork barrel spending and the establishment of a new oversight agency for Wall Street.
Looking back over 2010, several companies, business associations and public interest groups racked up significant lobbying victories, despite going against the White House and powerful lawmakers in both parties.
1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Mining Association
Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Mining Association helped inflict a series of body blows to the big cap-and-trade bill that narrowly passed the House in 2009. The lobbying effort against the bill helped thwart one of the Obama administration’s three major legislative priorities, alongside the reforms of healthcare and financial services.
Cap-and-trade sputtered in the Senate amid resistance from Republicans and conservative Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not even bring a scaled-back version from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) up for a vote. Shortly after the GOP gains in the elections, Obama admitted that cap-and-trade would be off the table for years to come.
2. American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals
The American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals fought off the public health insurance option and secured an exemption through 2019 from the new Independent Payment Advisory Board, which the new healthcare law empowered to recommend cuts to Medicare payments.
On top of that, the American Hospital Association successfully lobbied for heavy restrictions on physician-owned hospitals, which could cut into their business. The restrictions were included in the Democrats’ healthcare law but are being challenged in court.
3. Ford Motor Co.
It’s unusual for tariffs to be put back into a trade agreement, but that’s exactly what Ford won in the U.S.-South Korea free trade deal. In negotiations earlier this month, South Korea agreed that tariffs on its cars would be eliminated over five years instead of immediately.
In addition, a sensitive U.S. tariff on trucks will be reduced more slowly, and South Korea will change environmental and safety rules that could allow for U.S. cars to enter its market.
Having originally opposed the trade deal, Ford lobbied hard for the changes to the agreement. That allowed the automaker to support the trade deal and remain in a good position with the White House and lawmakers in both parties moving forward.
4. Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense
Fiscal hawks like Citizens Against Government Waste and Taxpayers for Common Sense have waged a war of attrition against earmarks — the parochial projects that bring the bacon back to lawmakers’ congressional districts. Aided by Tea Party enthusiasm for ending the practice, House and Senate Republicans have agreed to voluntary bans on earmarks. That has left appropriations lobbyists scrambling to find new federal funding avenues for their clients.
5. American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America
The oil industry appeared to be on the rocks politically after the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But it nonetheless helped kill several measures that companies and their Capitol Hill allies alleged would have hurt the industry’s competitiveness.
Among them: plans to remove economic damage liability caps for companies involved in offshore spills, which the industry said would price independent U.S. companies out of the Gulf of Mexico market by sending insurance rates skyward. The companies also beat back White House proposals to repeal billions of dollars in industry tax incentives.
But the spill wasn’t without its consequences for the industry, as the administration abandoned proposals to sell oil-and-gas leases off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Unions were huge winners in the healthcare reform debate. They managed to preserve an employer-sponsored healthcare system that gives them a lot of negotiating power with businesses, while largely gutting a tax on high-cost health plans that many experts blame for skyrocketing healthcare costs. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Communications Workers of America and others in the AFL-CIO pulled no punches on the tax proposal, saying it went against the president’s 2008 campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.
The final version of the 40 percent excise tax on so-called “Cadillac Plans” delays the tax until 2018. It also raises an earlier threshold for what constitutes a high-cost plan and exempts the value of dental and vision benefits.
7. U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Consumer Federation of America
Consumer advocacy groups like the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Consumer Federation of America won big with the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
At times, it seemed the new agency was the only thing keeping the massive piece of legislation from moving through the Senate. But despite pushback from lawmakers and Wall Street, the agency survived in the final bill and closely resembles what its drafters intended.
The brand-name drug lobby has a lot to celebrate. Not only did it manage to stave off meaningful government price controls in the healthcare law, but the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) also seems likely to end the year with a victory on the generic competition front.
Thanks to its early healthcare reform deal with the White House, PhRMA did not have to worry about having to offer rebates in the Medicare prescription drug program (except in the coverage “doughnut hole”), and a proposal to allow the re-importation of U.S. drugs sold abroad didn’t make it into the final bill.
On top of that, a proposal to restrict “pay-for-delay” settlements, in which drug makers pay generic manufacturers to drop their patent challenges, seems unlikely to pass Congress by year’s end.
Boeing notched a huge victory when the Defense Department signed a new multiyear contract for more F-18 E/F Super Hornets for the Navy and Marine Corps. In May, Pentagon leaders announced to congressional defense committees that they were planning to award a contract to Boeing to build 124 Super Hornet fighter jets and their electronic attack versions, the Growlers, with the deal running through 2013.
For Boeing, this victory means that the company is still part of the fighter jet market. The new contract will be a hedge for Boeing until it receives enough international orders for the plane to keep its production line going.
10. National Retail Federation
Member companies of the National Retail Federation stand to benefit from an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) added to the Wall Street reform bill. The measure will clamp down on the “interchange fees” that small merchants and retailers have to pay to banks and credit unions that issue debit and credit cards.
Bank and credit unions lobbied heavily against the measure, saying it would hurt their business, but Durbin’s provision survived. The rule could boost the bottom lines of retailers, who won’t have to pay out as much for accepting debit cards.
Ben Geman, Peter Schroeder, Julian Pecquet, Ian Swanson, Roxana Tiron and Erik Wasson contributed to this report.