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Finance Committee Republicans Open to House de Minimis Restriction Bill

Days after the House speaker said he wished to move a bill that would end de minimis eligibility for products subject to Section 301 tariffs (see 2407080049), the ranking member and other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee said the idea has merit.

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Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the top Republican on the panel, said during a hallway interview at the Capitol that while he hasn't endorsed the House Ways and Means bill that was recommended in April, "I'm not opposed to it. I'm open to it."

Sen. Thom Tillis, D-N.C., is solidly behind the House approach, saying he thinks the Finance Committee should move a companion bill. "I hear from a lot of companies in North Carolina, particularly in the textile space, so I hope we could. Obviously, it'd have to be done on a bipartisan basis, but I would support it."

Tillis said he believes "more than half of our conference" wants to restrict Chinese goods from duty-free entry, "for the same reasons I do, the industry speaking in our states."

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who has proposed that de minimis levels be lowered to match trading partners' de minimis laws as part of his Americas Act, said he thinks the House bill's "scope is more limited than mine."

Still, Cassidy said he could support the Senate following the House if the bill passed that chamber. "I think it's time to take action. Now, I can believe in incrementalism, but I think once you make the case, people would say: 'Well, why are we being incremental? Let's just address it.'"

The changes to de minimis that passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee -- it would also not allow low-value goods subject to safeguards or Section 232 to enter duty-free -- were not supported by Democrats on the committee (see 2404180068).

Just before the bill was marked up, the trade groups that have led the charge for rolling back de minimis argued that the bill did not go far enough (see 2404110073). At the time the Section 301 product list faced its last expansion, it covered about two-thirds of Chinese exports.

Lori Wallach, head of Rethink Trade and a longtime free-trade skeptic, has said opponents of changes to the $800 de minimis threshold -- whom she identified as express shippers and large online retailers -- have noticed that those who wish to restrict de minimis have built up "a head of steam." She said during the National Council of Textile Organizations' conference in April that those corporations are trying to figure out how to poke a hole and let that steam escape, and she called this bill one of their "cheesy ideas."