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Blumenauer Dismisses New GSP Bill; Brady Expresses Interest

House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., threw cold water on a proposal to refund tariffs that should have been waived through the Generalized System of Preferences benefits program, as importers continue to wait for the program's reauthorization. All tariffs will start the refund process once the bill becomes law, but Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., says the best chance of that is in December (see 2209200068).

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At that point, importers will have been paying tariffs for two weeks shy of two years.

"I'm not ready to abandon the approach we've taken," Blumenauer said during a hallway interview at the Capitol this week. "I think what we've done is defensible, we've had the support of the administration, the overwhelming majority of the Democrats. We're not doing anything that's bizarre."

With regard to the interim refund, proposed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Blumenauer said, "I'm not certain that's a strategy we need to do." He said he hasn't talked to her about it yet, however.

"TAA didn't used to be World War III, and I don't think it should be," he said, referring to Trade Adjustment Assistance, which Republicans say is the biggest barrier to getting GSP and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill passed, because Democrats insist that they go together. "I am mystified by all these things, but I hope that when we get past the election, that cooler heads prevail, especially when it comes to the Trade Adjustment Assistance. This is hurting people. It shouldn't be in limbo, I don't think."

Ways and Means Committee Member Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said he could see both sides, that relief is needed now, or that passing a refund bill would undermine momentum for getting GSP reauthorized. "In the bigger picture, the even more important thing is to get it done, to get it reauthorized," he said.

Committee ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said he's interested in the interim refund proposal. The bill does have two Republican co-sponsors, as well as one Democrat in addition to Wasserman Schultz, all from Florida.

"Haven't studied it much, but if we come back next week, [I] certainly want to talk to her about it," Brady said in a hallway interview at the Capitol. "I want to get GSP done. Don't want to do anything that takes away from the pressure to get that done, but it hasn't budged in way too long and I've got to be clear-eyed about it, but it's still way up my priority list for the end of the year."

Brady also responded to Neal's suggestion that Republicans' opposition to TAA could become less of an issue if there are other priorities they value in a tax extenders package (see 2209200068). "When we sit down, it'll be in good faith efforts, and we'll just have to balance out the package, both in importance and priorities, and in costs. I think there will be a lot of issues in play, and I hope we'll succeed."

He said just because Republicans could be the majority in the House of Representatives in 2023 doesn't mean they'll put off passing GSP and MTB to get a version closer to their liking. "Obviously, Republicans would like to get a lot of these issues solved, because they've just been going so long."