Democrats, Republicans Still at Odds on GSP/MTB Package
House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., whose party is all but certain to lose the majority in January, is still firm that what's holding up the renewal of two small tariff-cutting bills is Republican refusal to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance. The program, which offers retraining and extended unemployment for workers whose jobs were eliminated due to foreign competition, can no longer accept new applicants since it expired in July.
In a hallway interview at the Capitol Nov. 16, Blumenauer said the path to passing the Generalized System of Preferences benefits program and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill is for Republicans to "just get their act together," and recognize that his Trade Adjustment Assistance is a "great piece of legislation." He said wrapping it up with Trade Promotion Authority "is not getting them anyplace."
"They don't have a [TPA] bill," he said. "Ain't gonna happen."
He said of passing TAA renewal, "There's no reason not to do it, other than sort of an ideological game."
He added, "It just mystifies me ... the public supports it, it's good public policy, and it's needed, and to suggest something that isn't going to happen as an excuse to just sit on your hands, I think it's of limited utility and really hard to defend."
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the top Republican on the committee, told International Trade Today that same day that it's Democrats' intransigence that's holding up important legislation.
He said, "I'm hopeful Democrats realize that their insistence on TAA is hurting U.S. manufacturers, medium and small, and hurting our poorest countries in the world, who we want to do more trade with -- to help them -- that's what's at stake here."
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has introduced a bill that pairs a narrow TPA that would only cover a free trade deal with the United Kingdom and a TAA renewal (see 2206220064). When an ITT reporter asked Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., if that could be a path out of the impasse, he said he didn't want to commit to anything, but that he had talked to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai recently about these issues. Neal said in a brief hallway interview that he doesn't know what path GSP and MTB renewal would take, but he still believes it can be done before Congress leaves for Christmas.
Brady, however, continues to say that Portman's proposal is not attractive enough to warrant TAA renewal.
"My view is, identifying a specific trade agreement, whether it's Taiwan, U.K., or others, is a bit of false hope because President [Joe] Biden has made it very clear he is not serious about pursuing trade agreements with any country. I hope he changes his mind, but simply providing one-off Trade Promotional Authority doesn't mean we have any trade agenda," Brady said.