Can consumers in Michigan change the position of Sen. Robert Griffin (R-Mich.) against the consumer protection bill (S. 707) in time to enact this important inflation-fighter before Congress goes home this month?
This interesting experiment in democracy is now going on throughout Michigan with our support and encouragement. Petitioners are asking citizens to sign manifestos asking Griffin to use his influence as Senate minority whip to obtain enough votes to break the filibuster that has stalled this bill in the Senate since 1972. They are learning that Griffin voted in support of the consumer bill before his reelection campaign in 1972 when he needed consumer votes. His switch this year in opposition to consumer interests can be attributed to the lobbying power of General Motors and the Ford Motor Co.
Griffin is being pressed by his friends in Michigan and Washington to change his mind. Some are urging him to grasp the mood of indignant consumers who see Washington permitting higher prices on all kinds of goods and services supposedly regulated or monitored by the federal government. Sen. Robert Dole (K-Kan.), who formerly opposed the consumer bill, became a supporter before his successful uphill reelection campaign. He is urging Griffin to break the logjam, give the go signal to President Ford, who is relying on his old friend’s advice, and let the bill pass as part of the President’s anti-inflation program.
Dole’s advice makes good sense. There is a great need for a consumer advocacy agency to challenge the lethargy or pro-industry positions of the old-line regulatory agencies whose decisions affect the prices, quality and safety of so many consumer products and services. The House of Representatives believed that consumers needed a tough, continual voice in Washington when it voted by an overwhelming 3-1 margin for the legislation last April.
Since Griffin has been listening to the auto industry—which includes his heavy campaign supporters and close associates—the question is: Can Michigan consumers make a difference for themselves and consumers all over the country? People like Robert Leonard, the Flint, Mich., district attorney, think so. So do auto workers, students, teachers, civic activists and ethnic group and media leaders that we have consulted.
As the pile of petitions come in from’ Michigan, perhaps Griffin will go along with the minority leader, Sen. Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), and other Republicans such as Sens. Charles Percy (R-Ill.) and Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) who have long advocated passage of this key bill.
For as Dole hes wisely informed Griffin: Either get the bill through this year with the Republicans and the White House receiving some credit for it; or have it pushed through in stronger form by a more liberal, Democrat-dominated Senate next year. For the pragmatic junior senator from Michigan, the choice has never been clearer.