The somewhat surprising turn of Congress into Republican control has plastics and manufacturing industry lobbyists hoping for, and in some cases expecting, favorable results on a range of issues, particularly energy.
After Republicans narrowly took control of the Senate in the Nov. 5 elections, some predicted that disputes over the environment that had bottled up the long-stalled energy bill could begin to be settled in ways favorable to business.
Business lobbyists also renewed their push for tax cuts, and for one priority important to small businesses - legislation that would let trade associations buy health insurance for their members across state lines.
Energy has been a particular focus for the industry, as plastics lobbyists sought legislation that would open more areas for drilling of natural gas, a key feedstock. High natural-gas prices have hurt the competitiveness of the U.S. industry on world markets.
``Hopefully with the change in control in the Senate, the president will be able to move the energy bill,'' said Mike Lynch, director of public affairs for ITW Inc. and longtime participant in government affairs activities in plastics industry trade groups.
Even if the legislation ultimately does not do as much as industry would like to allow more natural-gas drilling, it should open the way for so-called ``clean coal'' technologies for generating electricity, and that could take some of the burden off tight natural-gas supplies, he said.
The switch in Senate control means Republicans again will take control of committees, and their key agenda-setting functions. That means Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., will lose his chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the bottle bill he had pushed in the last session of Congress probably will go dormant.
Legislation that Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., pushed on chemical industry security issues also will face more hurdles.
``We look forward to an opportunity to go on the offense for good legislation, instead of playing defense against bad legislation,'' said Michael Baroody, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington.
One such opportunity is in health care, where business groups have advocated legislation that would let trade associations pool their members to buy health care, as a way to control costs, said Shane Downey, manager of government affairs for the National Tooling and Machining Association in Fort Washington, Md.
``It has broad backing in the House [and] White House support,'' Downey said.
While businesses may feel emboldened by the election results, lobbyists cautioned that Congress remains divided nearly down the middle, much like it was before Jeffords left the Republican Party and put the Senate in the hands of Democrats last year.
``There's still tight margins. It's not like things were really flying through before Jeffords switched over,'' Downey said. ``It was still a battle and it's still going to be tough.''