The Senate Finance and House Ways & Means committees passed the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) in April. Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the bill which would renew and modernize the president’s authority to negotiate major new trade deals (commonly called Trade Promotion Authority or “TPA”), including those currently under consideration with Europe (TTIP) and Asia (TPP). A controversial amendment offered by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) that would require the U.S. to include provisions in international trade deals that draw the line on currency manipulation was rejected. Ways & Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced companion legislation in the House. 

TPA-2015 limits Congress to a simple up or down vote on trade deals. It also requires transparency from the White House regarding what’s included in the agreements and consultation with Congress throughout the negotiation process. If an administration (Democrat or Republican) does not abide by the requirements noted in the agreement, TPA may be withdrawn.

AMT is a vocal advocate for TPA renewal, which is needed to achieve high-quality trade deals that open markets, create jobs and grow the U.S. economy. Please join the association in urging your members of Congress to support TPA-2015.

Ambush election rule goes into effect

Despite our best efforts, the Ambush Election Rule went into effect on April 14. The final rule represents the culmination of more than three years of effort by the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) majority members to achieve radical changes to union election procedures through regulation. The new rule shortens the labor union election process to as few as 14 days from the current median time of 38 days and deprives employers of due process. As a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, AMT strongly opposed this rule which will effectively restrict communication between employers and employees prior to a union election, leaving employees without access to important information before they vote. For more details on the rule, visit the NLRB’s website: www.nlrb.gov.

Death tax repeal passes House

After 10 years, legislation to fully repeal the estate tax finally passed the House, 240-179. Seven Democrats voted in favor of the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 (H.R. 1105), three Republicans voted against, and 12 members didn’t vote. This is a major victory for family-owned businesses. Action now moves to the Senate, where Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and 27 Republican cosponsors introduced a companion bill (S. 880). 

COMPETES Act reauthorization

The House Science Committee approved the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) by a 19-16 party line vote. H.R. 1806 was introduced by Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) with 10 GOP cosponsors. The bill includes a cost share reduction for MEPS, but unfortunately cuts the authorized funding level to $125 million for FY16 and FY17, down from $130 million in current funding and significantly less than the president’s FY16 request of $141 million. The bill also earmarks $5 million for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). 

Chairman Smith and Sen. John Thune (R-SD.), Chairman of the Senate Science Committee, issued a joint statement following the committee vote expressing their intention to work together to reauthorize agencies under the America COMPETES Act. Democrats oppose the measure as it sets out funding levels for several research agencies that depart sharply from the administration’s FY16 budget request and would reshape key policies and priorities guiding those agencies. It’s unclear when the bill will come to the House floor for a vote. The COMPETES Act, which reauthorizes federal research programs at the NSF, NASA, NIST, OSTP and other agencies, expired in 2013. AMT is working with members of the congressional staff and other organizations to improve and enact H.R. 1806.
athomas@AMTonline.org
Twitter: @athomas62