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Latest Jobs Effort Focuses on Manufacturing

CQ Today

July 21, 2010

By Edward Epstein

A legislative push by House leaders to boost the manufacturing sector will reach full intensity next week — part of a Democratic effort to have a strong finish before the August recess.

Some of what Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., calls the "Make It in America Agenda" consists of small-bore bills that would not normally draw much attention. But other initiatives expected to be brought to the floor separately will spark sharp debate about U.S. trade policy, particularly toward China.

And a bill (HR 4380) to suspend tariffs on about 600 import items needed by U.S. manufacturers — ordinarily a non- controversial measure — could draw flak this year. The annual bill, which usually garners bipartisan support, has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. House leaders plan to consider it under suspension of the rules — an expedited process that requires a two-thirds vote for passage — possibly on Wednesday.

That could put Republicans on the spot. Eager to show voters that they oppose spending on member-requested earmarks, GOP lawmakers earlier this year included "limited tariff benefits" in their vow to forgo earmarks. The move drew criticism from many U.S. businesses that count on the tariff bill to bring certain chemicals and other imports into the United States duty-free.

With unemployment at almost 10 percent and unlikely to drop significantly before the November elections, Democrats have been working on a new approach in their "jobs agenda" effort to try to show voters that they aim to create well-paying factory jobs. Some 2.5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the two years since the recession began.

"We ought to be expanding our manufacturing base, encouraging people to ‘make it in America,’ and if we make it in America more people will have jobs," Hoyer said Tuesday.

Hoyer said Americans realize the country must rebuild its manufacturing base. "People understand if we succeed it will be because we make more things and sell it to the rest of the world," Hoyer said.

Republican Response

Republicans said they, too, want to boost manufacturing, but GOP leaders said the economic policies of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have hindered job creation.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said that any pro-manufacturing legislation will be more than offset by the prospect of higher taxes if Congress and President Obama allow the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts implemented under President George W. Bush (PL 107-16, PL 108-27) to expire at the end of this year.

"Compare what they do to the extraordinary cost of tax hikes," Cantor said. "They ought to start by stopping the extraordinary damage their agenda is doing to the economy."

The legislative effort has been in the works for several weeks. It is expected to continue when Congress returns after Labor Day and last until the House recesses in October in advance of the Nov. 2 elections.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Hoyer and other Democratic House leaders discussed the plan with Obama last week and showed him an early version of a brochure they are still working on that will tout their effort to help the manufacturing sector.

Democrats say their manufacturing drive dovetails with Obama’s ongoing campaign to sharply increase U.S. exports.

One item expected to be on the Democrats’ agenda that could stir controversy is a bill to press China to end the practice of pegging the yuan to the dollar through dollar purchases.

Such purchases account in large measure for China’s $2 trillion foreign currency reserve and the United States’ $227 billion trade deficit with China. Many in Congress contend the practice undervalues China’s currency, making its exports cheaper, and thereby taking business away from domestic manufacturers and causing job losses.

Among those offering the bill (HR 2378) is Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, co-chairman of the 80-member bipartisan House Manufacturing Caucus. The measure draws support from both parties, and given widespread complaints about China’s overvalued currency, he contends, his bill will resonate. "It will be very popular here [in the House], in the country and in the Senate," Ryan said.

A leadership aide said another bill involving China — one of the largest exporters to the United States — that might be considered would mandate that the total value of Chinese-made goods the federal government buys in a year could not exceed the amount of U.S.-made products the Chinese government purchases in the same year. The bill (HR 5312) is being offered by Democratic freshman Mark Schauer of Michigan, a state devastated by the loss of factory jobs.

Another controversial bill (HR 3786) that might be considered comes from Rules Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y. It would allow the United States to lower tariffs with another country only if that country reciprocates by lowering similar tariffs on U.S. goods.

And Hoyer said the House will consider a bill (HR 4692) by Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., that would require the president to submit a "national manufacturing strategy" every four years.

The Democrats’ effort began July 19, when the House passed by voice vote a bill (HR 1855) by Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, that would encourage partnerships among businesses, unions and educators to train workers. "We’re trying to get people back to work," Loebsack said Tuesday. "I’m glad the bill passed, whether it’s part of a package or a stand-alone bill. I hope the Senate acts on it."

Beyond that, House leaders are still considering what legislation to include in their package. Hoyer said as many as 18 to 20 bills are in the mix.

Source: CQ Today Online News
Round-the-clock coverage of news from Capitol Hill.
© 2010 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 



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