Manufacturers score several wins in “Lame Duck” session
As of press time, manufacturers are closing in on several legislative victories that will help our sector and the broader economy continue to rebound.
Late last night, the House approved the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 83) by a vote of 219 to 206. A Senate vote on the measure, which is expected to pass, will occur over the next couple of days. The bill will fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year and avoid a government shutdown. Prior to the vote, the NAM sent a letter to every member of Congress urging their support for the legislation.
Thanks, in significant part, to the persistent outreach and advocacy by the NAM, the omnibus bill addresses a number of important issues for manufacturers, including the following:
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL): Requires the Administration to work with Congress to identify how to amend current law to ensure the U.S. COOL program for beef, pork and poultry complies with our international trade obligations and avoid retaliation against U.S. exports. While the language does not include a full legislative contingency plan if COOL is finally ruled noncompliant by the World Trade Organization, it does signal congressional recognition and understanding of this issue. The NAM will continue to work with Congress to ensure a full contingency plan going forward to avoid the potential application of $2 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports to our two largest trading partners, Canada and Mexico.
Manufacturing Innovation: Includes the bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act (H.R. 2996), which has the potential to strengthen the technology leadership position that manufacturers have worked for years to establish. By creating a network of innovation centers, RAMI brings together businesses, schools and the government in a joint effort to accelerate the transfer of advanced manufacturing technology and techniques into the commercial sector.
Environmental Regulations: Reins in several unbalanced environmental regulations, such as those involving the sage grouse and the Clean Water Act. The bill would stop the Fish and Wildlife Service from finalizing Endangered Species Act listing rules for four species of sage grouse, a bird whose habitat often coincides with fossil fuel development, and for which conservation efforts are already underway. It also creates exemptions for normal farming operations or ditch maintenance from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act permitting program, a minor fix to its controversial “Waters of the United States” rule, but a strong signal that a majority of Congress is not pleased with the regulation as currently proposed.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): Provides funds for the CPSC to reduce the burden of third-party testing. This provision makes clear that the CPSC should meet its statutory requirements and reduce the unnecessary burdens imposed on manufacturers.
Internet Tax Freedom: Extends, through fiscal year 2015, the current moratorium on taxing Internet access. The moratorium—in place since 1998—has helped spur the broadband investment that has contributed significantly to the growth of the manufacturing sector in the United States. Extending the current ban on new state and local taxes on Internet access will ensure that important technological innovations continue. While this temporary extension is helpful, manufacturers strongly urge Congress to make the ban permanent to ensure continued robust broadband adoption and investment in the United States and promote competitiveness and job creation.
Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank: Includes an NAM-supported provision that prohibits the Ex-Im Bank from blocking financing for coal-fired or other power-generation projects in countries eligible for International Development Association (IDA) assistance and IDA “blend” countries, as long as the financing would increase the export of U.S. goods or services and prevent the loss of U.S. jobs.
Hours of Service: Provides much needed regulatory relief for commercial for-hire motor carriers, private trucking fleets and manufacturers that rely on trucks to deliver inputs and finished products. The one-year pause of the trucking Hours of Service 34-hour restart provision and the requirement for the Secretary of Transportation to further study the burdensome aspects of the restart provision are welcome developments that are strongly supported by manufacturers.
Pensions: For manufacturers that sponsor pension plans, the bill includes an important provision clarifying that those making routine changes to their business operations will not be subject to unnecessary and costly increases in the pension plan liabilities.
Finally, the NAM-supported Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (S. 2521) is on its way to the President for his signature. This bill will assist the federal government in taking the necessary steps to secure its own systems. As trusted partners with the federal government, manufacturers need to be assured the government is leveraging the latest tactics and technology to monitor and mitigate cyber threats.