When the Republican Congressional majority implemented its ban on earmarks in 2010, it signaled a commitment to ending the culture of corruption and influence peddling in the legislative process. But there has been one unintended consequence of this important ban: temporary tariff reductions, or Miscellaneous Tariff Bills (MTBs) have also been counted as earmarks since the ban went into effect.
The truth is, repealing a tariff is in no way comparable to creating an earmark. There is no such thing as a “tax earmark,” since letting families and employers keep their own money is not government spending. Rather than being a tool for wasteful, cronyist spending – as earmarks are – MTBs serve to provide important relief for American manufacturers.
MTBs are closely controlled to ensure they are not abused – the process is only available for imports where there is no domestically made alternative and any single tariff reduction must not exceed $500,000 in lost revenue. By definition, they are non-controversial in nature.
The last time Congress passed MTBs, these tariff cuts supported more than 90,000 U.S. jobs and increased GDP by $3.5 billion, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Evidently, the benefits of these tariff cuts are enormous.
Fortunately, Congress is poised to kick-start this long stalled process. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently introduced the American Manufacturing Competiveness Act of 2016, legislation to reform the process of approving MTBs and make clear they are not earmarks.
The legislation requires local businesses to petition the independent International Trade Commission rather than a Member of Congress, which eliminates all concerns linking MTBs to the unethical nature of earmarks. Under the reforms, the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means committees would be given final say over whether to exclude tariff cuts from the final package, but would be unable to add any new ones.
ATR supports these important reforms and recently joined with a coalition of conservative organizations calling on Congress to swiftly approve these reforms and once again grant American manufacturers important tariff relief.