Africa trade bill back on in the House

Consideration of the bill in the House stalled last week after a fight stalled a companion bill in the Senate. Last week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he opposed passing the bill without improving the way the benefits are "paid for."

Coburn proposed taking the needed $200 million out of areas related to trade, but Senate Democrats objected. As it stands, the bill pays for a three-year extension of trade benefits for African countries by boosting customs user fees over 10 years — Coburn objected to stretching out the pay-for over so many years.

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According to a Senate aide, Coburn is looking for a chance to offer an amendment in the Senate that would change the pay-for, but no agreement to that effect had been announced as of Tuesday morning.

While consideration of the bill in the House stalled while that Senate fight was happening last week, the House now seems prepared to move the bill. Under the legislation, provisions that allow African countries to export textiles and apparel to the United States duty-free using fabric from third countries would be extended through September 2015.

Under current law, those benefits expire this September. The bill would also make South Sudan exports eligible for this preferred treatment.

The bill also makes technical corrections to the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement, and renews presidential authority to apply import sanctions against Burma.

The House bill will be considered under a suspension of House rules, which will require a two-thirds vote for passage. The bill should sail through, as the customs user fee pay-for is the same pay-for that has been used in the past.