Business

Lobby groups to House: We’ll remember tariff vote

Two business groups are pressing lawmakers to support a measure on the House floor that would streamline the application process for tariff relief.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce each issued key vote alerts on Tuesday for a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) that is scheduled for House consideration on Wednesday.  

{mosads}Interest groups issue key vote alerts to let lawmakers know they will be assessing their records based on how they vote on a particular bill. 

The bipartisan tariff legislation would overhaul the process for reducing or eliminating tariffs on imported inputs and products not available domestically.

“MTBs play a critical role in the operations of domestic manufacturers as they correct, on a temporary basis, distortions in the U.S. tariff code by eliminating duties on imported products for which there is no or insufficient domestic production and availability,” wrote Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of policy and government relations for NAM, in the letter to the House.

“Such distortions undermine the competitiveness of manufacturers in the United States by imposing unnecessary costs and, in some cases, imposing a higher cost on manufacturers’ inputs than the competing foreign imported product,” Newhouse wrote.

Business groups, including NAM and the Chamber of Commerce, have recently ramped up their lobbying efforts behind the legislation.

The Chamber urged Congress to move quickly on the long-delayed bill.  

Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, said, “Higher costs limit the ability of companies to expand production, hire additional workers, or invest in new cost-saving equipment.

“Given its importance for preserving American jobs, we hope this initiative to establish a new MTB process will advance swiftly,” he said. 

But two conservative groups — The Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America — have criticized the tariff bill. They say lawmakers should focus on eliminating all the tariffs instead of requiring firms to apply for specific waivers.  

On Monday, David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, and Michael Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action, wrote a joint op-ed in the National Review calling for bigger action on tax reform. 

“The House should be bold — use MTB reform to start permanently eliminating tariffs altogether,” McIntosh and Needham wrote.

They suggested eliminating all tariffs that generate less than $500,000 per year in federal revenue, make permanent any tariff relief enacted through the new process and change the criteria used by the International Trade Commission (ITC) to evaluate proposals. 

The groups aren’t expected to issue key vote alerts on the measure. 

Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, which drafted the tariff bill, touted support from groups like the National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

“We applaud you on creating a revised MTB process that increases transparency, avoids the pitfalls of earmarking, and sets the table for economic growth,” the groups said. 

The last tariff measure expired at the end of 2012 and remained in limbo while lawmakers tried to craft a process that would not violate a congressional earmark ban. 

In 2012, a Heritage Action study found that a “vast majority” of the 1,300 proposed tariff bills benefited 10 or fewer companies, making them banned earmarks under House rules.

Since the last bill expired, NAM estimates its businesses have faced an annual $748 million tax increase and that the U.S. economy has lost $1.875 billion.

The new measure, which will be considered under suspension of House rules, is expected to have the two-thirds majority needed to pass and move to the Senate for consideration by the Finance Committee.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved the measure last week, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced plans late last week to bring the bill to the floor.

Under the legislation, the ITC would analyze the petitions seeking tariff relief and issue public reports to Congress with recommendations.

The Ways and Means Committee would then draft a proposal that could exclude products recommended by the ITC but not add them.

The committee would then certify the proposal as earmark-free so it could be considered under House rules.

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