The number of Senators that want to gut tariffs on China imports is still high, but falling.
The ring leaders are Senators Michael Crapo (R-ID) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Crapo’s the Senator behind Division G in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), aka the Senate China bill. Division G is known as the Trade Act of 2021. It greatly speeds up the exemption process to the Section 301 tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. And it makes it harder for the White House to impose future tariffs without legislative approval.
Toomey recently put forth a Motion to Instruct – which advises Committee members who will meet with their colleagues in the House on their version of the China bill – to keep Division G.
Toomey has taken the mantle on this issue in recent days.
American manufacturing must be able to effectively compete with everyone, including China. With a Section 301 tariff exclusion process, American manufacturers will be better positioned to obtain the materials they need for production.
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) May 5, 2022
“As the conference committee coalesces to improve USICA and the COMPETES Act, I strongly urge its members to prioritize the reestablishment of this (Section 301 tariff) exclusion process,” Toomey said. “Failure to allow this remedy will harm our own manufacturers, disadvantaging these companies relative to foreign competitors at a time when we should be enabling their success.”
CPA opposes this motion.
The Toomey motion passed 53 to 43. That is not as big of a win as Toomey would have liked.
In fact, Crapo voted against the motion. He is being primaried in Idaho and a pro-China, globalization message is not a winning case to make before the voters. (See the CPA/Morning Consult poll on voter support for China tariffs.)
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who initially sided with Crapo on the Divison G trade provision in USICA, also changed his tune. He voted against Toomey’s Motion to Instruct.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) voted for keeping it, though he faces two challengers in Oregon’s Democratic Party primaries.
The Senate needs 60 votes to pass the joint-China bill, called the Bipartisan Innovation Act. The 53 that support the trade provision suggest the joint-bill would not survive if Crapo’s Trade Act of 2021 is included.
Last summer, there was overwhelming support for the Trade Act of 2021, with 91 Senators supporting it. That number is declining and unlikely to rise.
Here are the Senators who supported the Toomey Motion to keep Division G, which came just 24 hours after the U.S. government released monthly trade data showing a record $100 billion trade deficit.
And here are the Senators who voted against Toomey’s motion to make the trade provision a priority for the Bipartisan Innovation Act.
Robert Lighthizer has joined forces with some members of the House and Executive Branch to persuade Republicans in the Senate to oppose the Crapo-sponsored trade provision.
The USTR, led by Katherine Tai, has come under attack in recent weeks to scrap tariffs. Last month, the USTR allowed for hundreds of Section 301 “trade war” tariffs to be removed from companies, some of which only import from China.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to Tai on Monday advocating for holding steadfast to the 301s, a major component of reindustrializing the U.S.