Ways and Means releases tariff bill database


Last week, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade released a <a Last week, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade released a new resource page on miscellaneous tariff bills, which are measures introduced by members of Congress that cut taxes on specific imported goods saving money for a limited number of beneficiaries (usually just one). The subcommittee made a very handy database of these bills (they call it the MTB Matrix), showing who proposed each bill, who will benefit from it, how much money it will cost taxpayers, and whether or not lobbyists pushed the tariff break (a code sheet explaining the data, including its sources, is here). It’s an incredible resource (and yes, it is similar to Real Time’s 2008 tariff database; the difference is that the Trade Subcommittee’s staff did the heavy lifting of putting this together, so the many man hours we invested in putting our database together in 2008 can be spent actually analyzing the data this time around).

It’s worth pointing to the caveat that comes with the data: “Note: The MTB Matrix is a work-in-progress that will be updated continually. It will be completed upon introduction of the MTB Omnibus Bill.” This data set will change (and get better) as time goes on. The staff of the Subcommittee on Trade deserves plaudits for putting this information in one place, downloadable, with all the documentation one needs to use it. Rep. Sander Levin, who chairs the subcommittee, gets high marks too for making this happen. It really is transparency done right–combining congressional, executive branch and lobbying information in one spot. Can’t wait to dig into it.

House disclosure requirements for tariff duty suspensions are the same as those for earmark requests: Members have to disclose who will benefit from their tariff suspension requests and certify that neither the member nor the member’s spouse has a financial interest in the beneficiary. Is it too much to ask that the Appropriations Committee make a similar effort to publish good, downloadable earmark data on its Web site?

Read more of Real Time’s coverage of tariff suspensions here.