As the Senate considers amendments to the substitute amendment #1221 to H.R. 1314, the legislative vehicle for the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015,” NTU urges all Senators to support only those amendments which would facilitate and expand free trade. To that end, NTU urges Senators to vote as follows:
- “NO” on Portman-Stabenow Amendment #1299: This amendment would require the Administration to negotiate for enforceable rules against currency manipulation in trade agreements. Doing so could trigger tariffs on foreign goods - hurting relationships with trading partners and nullifying the many benefits of free trade to consumers and U.S. businesses, such as low-priced goods. Actions sometimes perceived as currency manipulation are often the result of a complex combination of monetary policy, economic health, time, and available capital, which can be outside the direct control of trading partners. While Congress should exercise great caution when it comes to efforts to intervene in other countries’ currency policies, the Hatch-Wyden amendment, #1385, is an improvement on #1299. Roll call votes on the Portman-Stabenow amendment will be significantly weighted and NTU will consider “NO” to be the pro-taxpayer position.
- “YES” on McCain Amendment #1226: This amendment would repeal the Department of Agriculture’s duplicative and wasteful catfish inspection program. An unnecessary barrier to free trade, the catfish program has been targeted as wasteful by the Government Accountability Office no fewer than eight times. So far the program has managed to spend $20 million over four years, without inspecting any catfish and is expected to spend another $15 million annually. The Food and Drug Administration already has purview over the inspection of fish and shellfish and further regulation of this “low risk” food is both unnecessary and costly to taxpayers and seafood distributors.
- “YES” on Flake Amendment #1247: This amendment would strike Title 2 of amendment #1221, “Extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance.” Intended to aid those workers laid off as a result of foreign competition through retraining, relocation, and other benefits, recent program evaluations have found Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to be ineffective or even harmful to recipients. Overly broad definitions mean that TAA is at risk for fraud or abuse. For instance, former Solyndra employees received $14.3 million in TAA from taxpayers (already on the hook for $535 million in loan guarantees) despite having fallen victim to a seriously flawed business model, not competition. TAA should be taken up as a standalone bill and considered on its own merits. Roll call votes on this amendment will be significantly weighted.
Roll call votes on these amendments to the substitute amendment to H.R. 1314 will be included in NTU’s annual Rating of Congress. As previously noted in a separate Vote Alert, NTU strongly urges support for the underlying bill.