House easily passes tariff relief bill

House easily passes tariff relief bill
© Getty Images

The House on Wednesday easily passed legislation to help businesses seeking tariff relief, with the measure designed to comply with the congressional ban on earmarks.

The bipartisan Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) legislation, which sailed through the House on a 415-2 vote, would overhaul the process for reducing or eliminating tariffs on imported inputs and products not available or in short supply domestically.

ADVERTISEMENT

The measure now heads across to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, though the timing remains uncertain.

A Senate aide told The Hill that, “given the strong bicameral, bipartisan support for the MTB process reform bill, [Finance Committee] Chairman [Orrin] Hatch, who introduced the companion bill in the Senate, is hopeful the Senate will be able to consider the measure once it clears the House."

Last year, the Finance panel gave similar tariff legislation a full vetting, and the Senate passed a tariff provision through the upper chamber as part of a customs enforcement measure.

But the House stripped the tariff language from the customs bill ahead of a conference on the measure, leaving the trade-related bill in limbo. Congress cleared the customs bill in January.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellToomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping' Election meddling has become the new normal of US diplomacy DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday offered no hints about the timing of a vote on the tariff bill as discussions continue on how to proceed. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLobbying groups ask Congress for help on Trump tariffs Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Republicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security MORE (R-Texas) called the measure a “tax break” bill that will deliver much-needed relief to manufacturers who have faced higher costs on their products.

"By passing the bill we’re taking tremendous steps to ensure that we finally have a system in place that helps our manufacturers here in America compete in the global market and win,” Brady said on the House floor ahead of the vote.

Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said the bill, which he helped write, retains the strong provisions that he backed the last time a tariff relief passed in 2010.

Levin said the years-long delay in crafting a new bill cost U.S. jobs and hurt U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.

“I believe we've reached a sufficient path forward that will ultimately be beneficial for American manufacturers and American workers. It's more than overdue.”

Since the last bill expired in 2012, U.S. businesses have paid full tariffs on imported products that they need for manufacturing.

The measure has the strong support of two major business groups: the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They have been clamoring for a renewal of the tariff elimination practice and have recently ramped up their lobbying efforts.

NAM and the Chamber on Tuesday each issued key-vote alerts letting lawmakers know they will be rating their records based on how they vote on the tariff bill.

Without a tariff policy in place, the NAM estimates that their businesses have faced an annual $748 million tax increase and that the U.S. economy has lost $1.875 billion.

Two conservative groups — the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America — criticized the tariff bill, arguing that lawmakers should instead focus on eliminating all the tariffs instead of requiring firms to apply for specific waivers. But they did not urge lawmakers to vote against it.

Under the legislation, petitions for tariff relief would go to the International Trade Commission. The agency would then analyze the requests and issue public reports to Congress with recommendations.

The Ways and Means Committee could then draft a proposal for tariff relief based on the ITC recommendations, but lawmakers could not add new ones.

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

Previously, individual members of Congress sought tariff relief on behalf of companies, which conservatives and good government groups decried as an abuse of earmarks.