My father taught me a great lesson many years ago about the Congress, to always be on the lookout for bills that were labeled “technical corrections” or “miscellaneous,” because there was a good chance you might find something interesting – if you took the time to dig into the bill.
So, when the “Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018,” popped up on the House schedule for this week, and was approved Tuesday on a unanimous vote, I had to take a look.
My curiosity was quickly rewarded, as the second section of the bill was about tariff schedule changes for “Frozen, Boiled Glutinous Corn.”
And while it might not be on the front page of your local newspaper, this is a bill that is brimming with stories, fully supported by business groups in the United States.
First, let’s go over what this legislation is all about.
“A Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) is a law that temporarily reduces or suspends the import tariffs paid on particular products imported into the United States,” the Commerce Department explains.
In other words, companies in the U.S. ask the feds to reduce the tariff on certain imported items, to help cut their production costs, theoretically making those businesses more competitive.
And for many lawmakers, it’s a boost to companies back home.
“For businesses in my home state of Washington, the MTB will provide nearly $16 million in cost savings, which they can instead use to invest in their employees and their products,” said Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA).
“We have worked hard to deliver on this reform that will lead to millions of dollars being reinvested in North Carolina,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC).
One note – this is the first time a tariff bill has been put together under a new process established in 2016 – it used to be that the Congress was totally in charge of figuring out what items should have a tariff or duty changed.
But now, those requests from businesses go to the U.S. International Trade Commission, which then submits a package of recommendations to the Congress.
A variety of companies made 3,168 petitions to the feds to reduce tariffs on everything from Isosceles triangle wire, to golf drivers with a loft of 9.5 degrees, electric oil popcorn poppers, resin cement, tweezers, cat playgrounds made of wood, camera surfboard mounts, life jackets for pets, and much, much more.
The companies making these requests include well known ones like Specialized Bicycle, Cleveland golf, Whirlpool, PetSmart, Honeywell, and many more you’ve never heard about.
The final bill includes 1,661 tariff reductions, starting with the “Frozen, Boiled Glutinous Corn” and ending with “Vacuum Steel Lined Coffee Servers With Sight Gauge” and “Tripod Camera Mounts.”
The measure weighs in at 505 pages.
And finally, as the headline advertised, what’s a Catty Whack? That’s Section 1450 of the bill, described this way:
“Electromechanical ‘hide and seek’ toys, designed for use by cats or dogs, each with an electrically powered fast-moving feather wand that changes direction randomly; such wand mechanism positioned in a round enclosure of plastics, designed to allow the wand to shoot out; such toys each containing a carpeted scratching area on top.”
The bill now goes to the Senate.