The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

PICKUP: People In Congress Keep Us Perplexed

Senator Zell Miller

Madam President, I rise today in defense of that great American workhorse: the pickup truck. I am proud to sponsor, along with my friend, Senator Gramm of Texas, an amendment that would exempt all pickup trucks from the higher CAFE standards that have been proposed.

This is a very simple and short amendment. Pickups are now required to meet a standard of 20.7 miles per gallon, and our amendment would simply freeze pickups at that standard. All pickups would be exempt from any higher mileage standard proposed in this legislation.

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We have had a lot of conversation about the state of the economy these days, and we hang on every word of Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and the like, about the recession and when we are coming out of it. I knew a fellow back in Georgia. He did not have a Ph.D. in economics; he would have thought Ph.D. stood for "post hole digger." But he was one of the wisest men I ever knew. He told me years ago that if you really want to know when times are bad, take notice of the number of people having to sell their pickups. Look at the ads in the paper and the "for sale" signs in the yards. The more you see, the worse it is because pickups are the very symbol of the working man. As the pickup goes, so goes the working man and the very heart of this country.

Madam President, a pickup truck has two ends to it: A working end and a thinking end. Of course, the working end is the engine in the front. I would like to tell you about the thinking end in the back. I submit that the back of a pickup is the think tank of rural America. I suspect more problems have been solved on the tailgates of pickup trucks after a long day's work than have been solved anywhere.

I do not rise to speak often in this hallowed Chamber. I am still learning the complexities of being a Senator. I envy my learned colleagues who can speak with such great assurance on so many subjects. But, Madam President, on this one you can trust this man from the mountains of North Georgia. If this amendment fails, the tailgates of rural America are going to drop, and it will be a clank that will reverberate from now through November because then the conversation at the end of the day on the back of a pickup as the Sun goes down will not be about the farm or the family or the State or the Nation; the subject will be how to get rid of us in the next election.

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We are big on acronyms in Congress, and quite frankly they can be a little deceiving and confusing. I cannot even keep up with all of them. When we talk about CAFE and CAFE standards, most folks think we are talking about restaurants.

People in rural America also understand what an acronym is, and I think on this issue they would say that "pickup," P-I-C-K-U-P, is an acronym for "People in Congress Keep Us Perplexed." Let us not keep them perplexed anymore.

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When all this talk about CAFE started last year, I got worried Washington was going to stick it to the pickup owners of this Nation, so I tried to write a song about it. I am no Orrin Hatch, but I tried to write a song about it with my good friend, Jack Clement, in Nashville. It is called the "Talking Pickup Truck Blues." I will spare everyone the agony of my singing, but I want to share one verse. It goes something like this:

Sure, an SUV is classy travel, but it ain't much good for hauling gravel, or hay seed or bovine feces. So please do not make my pickup truck an endangered species.

Now, I will be the first to admit that song has not climbed to the top of the charts, but here is the point we are making: Do not mess with the working machine of the American road. Do not mess with pickups. Farmers depend on them. Families in rural America depend on them. Small businesses across this country depend on them, small businesses such as construction companies and home builders.

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I urge my colleagues, who represent the millions of pickup owners across this country, when this amendment comes up at a later date to vote for this amendment. We must exempt the American workers, the pickup truck, from these higher CAFE standards.

Like the last verse in my song goes:

So help us, Lord, and let there be a little wisdom in D.C.

[Taken from the Congressional Record, 6 March 2002, page S1589.]