House Members proposed more than 800 bills that would provide tax relief–in the form of tariff suspensions–for about 120 companies and organizations during the 110th Congress. The U.S. International Trade Commission, which analyzes the bills, suggests that all told, those bills–if enacted–will cost the Treasury $1.1 billion in 2009. Sunlight (actually, yours truly, all by himself) has slapped together a little database on the bills, showing the sponsors and the beneficiaries, the items to be imported, links to documents and lobbying reports, plus other good stuff (and lots of not so good stuff, including phrases like, “dissolved into a viscose solution and extruded through perforated metal disks”).
Tariff bills range from measures that would open the door to low cost footwear from China (affecting about 60 percent of the shoes sold in the United States, according to the International Trade Commission) to measures that will save a Connecticut textile firm the princely sum of $5.40 a year on imported “camel hair, not processed in any manner beyond the degreased or carbonized condition.”
While it’s easy to get lost in the details, a few points about tariff suspensions are worth mentioning: like earmarks, they generally benefit one company or organization; the House instituted new rules to provide more transparency in the tariff suspension process (these greatly facilitated my making of the database); transparency assumes that the press or public actually looks at what’s being made transparent; and, finally, because none of these bills is likely to pass before the current Congress turns out the lights, many of them will probably be reintroduced at some point in the 111th Congress, and we’ll keep tracking them.
Much more on this at Real Time.