As mentioned in this week's Congress update, Campaign for Liberty is supporting the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 (H.R. 4923). This legislation updates the procedures for approving Miscellaneous Tariff Bills (MTBs). MTBs used to be submitted by individual representatives on behalf of their constituents, but that practice was halted because MTBs were (mistakenly) classified as "earmarks." This bill creates a new way to consider MTBs that ensures they will not fall under the earmark ban. Campaign for Liberty has signed onto a coalition letter in support of this bill. The text of the letter is available below. Campaign for Liberty members who support improving America's international competitiveness by reducing tariffs should call their representative and tell them to support H.R. 4923.
April 14, 2016
Representative Kevin Brady Chairman,
House Committee on Ways & Means
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Brady,
On behalf of our organizations, we write in support of your legislation, the “American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016,” which would revise and improve the process for consideration of Miscellaneous Tariff Bills (MTBs). For years, MTBs served as an imperfect, yet effective means to reduce unnecessary tariffs on selected goods and materials that are not produced domestically.
By cutting or eliminating tariffs on raw materials and other products, MTBs helped create economic benefits for consumers while bolstering the competitiveness of American companies. In fact, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, passage of a MTB would provide the U.S. with $1.875 billion of economic growth annually.
There are also strict rules as to what is eligible for tariff relief. There could not be domestic production of the imported good, the estimated cost of the waived or reduced tariff could not exceed $500,000 and it had to be implementable by the U.S. Customs Service at the border. The International Trade Commission (ITC) was the arbiter of whether a proposal met the criteria.
Though its economic benefits are clear, since 2010 the MTB process has been halted by concerns about earmarks. Specifically, a provision in the rules of the House of Representatives prohibits the passage of a “limited tariff benefit” that affects fewer than 10 companies – a threshold triggered by many previous MTBs. Your legislation would wisely allow Congress to achieve the positive economic effects of an MTB without violating the ban on earmarks. The revised process in your bill would require companies to file petitions for tariff relief directly to the ITC instead of to individual Members of Congress.
The ITC would carefully analyze these requests and report its recommendations to Congress. Congress could exclude products from the ITC proposal, but could not add to it. This would ensure that all enacted tariff reductions were thoroughly vetted by both the ITC and Congress. These important procedural changes should serve to eliminate any concerns about the parochialism and unethical behavior that were endemic to the earmarking process.
Additionally, they add unprecedented transparency, as all correspondence between businesses, the ITC, and Congress would be made easily available to the public in real time.
Again, we applaud you on creating a revised MTB process that increases transparency, avoids the pitfalls of earmarking, and sets the table for economic growth. Our organizations are pleased to endorse your bill and hope it will be swiftly enacted into law.
Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President National Taxpayers Union
Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform
Norman Singleton, President Campaign for Liberty
Jeffrey Mazzella, President Center for Individual Freedom
Tom Schatz, President Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Lisa Nelson, CEO Jeffersonian Project
Lori Sanders, Outreach Director and Senior Fellow R Street Institute
Karen Kerrigan, President and CEO Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council
Steve Ellis, Vice President Taxpayers for Common Sense
David Williams, President Taxpayers Protection Alliance