TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Senator Coburn vows to block unanimous consent vote on bill to assist African economies

Friday, 27 July 2012

Source: The Hill (Blog)

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) argued on the floor Thursday about how to pay for a bill to assistant African economies.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) provides aid to economies of sub-Saharan Africa and trade incentives.

Coburn has a problem with the fact that the $200 million bill is paid for over 10 years rather than this year and said he would block unanimous consent passage until he gets his way.

“It’s kicking the can down the road,” Coburn said. “I’m for the AGOA package, but I want to pay for it … we need to pay for what we’re doing now and that’s the whole point of this exercise.”

Coburn said he won’t let any unanimous consent agreement on the bill if it has a “pay-go” measure that doesn’t pay for the bill the same year it takes effect.

“If we’re not going to pay for it this year then we’re not going to pass it by unanimous consent,” Coburn said. “To say we can’t pay for something that’s $200 million right now, it just says we’re not worthy of being here.”

Baucus said Coburn should no stop the bill since the House supports it and people are losing jobs as a result of the stalling.

If Congress doesn't act before leaving for recess, lesser-developed sub-Saharan countries will lose duty-free access for their apparel goods that are manufactured domestically with yarn and fabric imported from abroad. Also import restrictions on Burmese goods expired Thursday.

“This is not a perfect world, this is a world where we try to do our best and get this legislation past,” Baucus said. “This bill is fully paid for, it’s just the senator would like it paid for in a different way.”

Coburn disagreed that the bill is paid for.

“If you went to Wendy’s today and said give me a double cheese burger and I’ll pay for it over 10 years, most Americans would not say that is paid for,” Coburn said.

A democratic aide said Coburn had voted for "pay goes" and has not objected to other measures with that funding mechinism in the past. But Coburn said lawmakers shouldn't vote for things now because they were considered "business as usual."

The bill also would modify the rules of origin for apparel and textile goods under the Dominican Republic and Central America Free Trade Agreement.

Later Thursday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to pass just the Burma sanctions that expired Thursday.

Coburn wasn’t threatening to block that part of the trade package. But Baucus objected to that as well.

“The Obama administration is opposed to splitting the package,” Baucus said. “And I think for good reason because they favor both Burma and AGOA.”

McConnell accused Baucus and Democrats of making the Burmese sanctions a partisan issue for the very first time.

“I don’t want the impression left here today that this is a partisan issue,” Baucus said in his defense. “Both issues are wholly bipartisan.”

Baucus suggested that Coburn work with him to find an agreement before the August recess.