Manufacturers press for support ahead of tariff relief vote

Manufacturers press for support ahead of tariff relief vote
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A powerful business group is 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) issued a key-vote alert for a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) that the House is scheduled to consider on Wednesday. Interest groups issue key-vote alerts to let lawmakers know they will be rating them based on how they vote on a particular bill.

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The bipartisan 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 the NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have ramped up their lobbying efforts behind the tariff bill in recent weeks.

The last measure expired at the end of 2012 and has been in limbo since then. Lawmakers have been trying to craft a new tariff relief process that would not violate the congressional earmark ban.

The NAM estimates that their businesses have faced an annual $748 million tax increase on their inputs and that the U.S. economy has lost $1.875 billion since the last tariff relief measure expired. 

The new bill, 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 legislation to the floor.

Two weeks ago, both chambers introduced the bipartisan legislation that would require businesses to petition the International Trade Commission for specific tariff reductions.

The ITC would then analyze the petitions and issue public reports to Congress with recommendations.

After that, the Ways and Means Committee would draft a proposal that can 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.

By requiring that companies seek tariff relief from the ITC, rather than from members of Congress, lawmakers say the process will not violate earmark rules.