Build Back Better
President Biden’s signature legislation remains stalled in the U.S. Senate with no clear path forward in the foreseeable future. The House-passed measure lacks the 50 votes necessary to clear the upper chamber under budget reconciliation rules. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been the most outspoken Democrat opposing the comprehensive bill, asserting that spending in the package would further drive up inflation, among other things. Those concerns were amplified this week when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released inflation data Wednesday showing that the consumer price index hit a four decade high of 7 percent in December compared to a year ago.
If the Build Back Better Act is to move in the Senate, its provisions will have to be modified. Where there does appear to be consensus within in the Democrat caucus, however, is on the revenue raisers, including proposed tax increases on small and medium sized business that are structured as S Corporations or pass throughs. In ABMA’s meetings with Senate Democrat offices, a common theme we are hearing is that all Senate Democrats—including Joe Manchin—are on board with the $1.75 trillion in “pay fors” to fund the social spending provisions. So it appears at this point that despite the business community’s efforts to alter or remove tax increases in the bill, they are not likely to change and that our best chance of these tax increases not becoming law is for the overall package to fail. To that end, ABMA signed on to a letter this week to House and Senate leadership imploring Congress to cease consideration of these tax increases on small and medium sized businesses and instead focus on headwinds that are confronting the entire business community, namely rising prices, labor shortages, and ongoing supply chain disruptions.
While the Build Back Better package is currently in limbo and prospects for passage appear slim, there is ongoing concern that Senate Democrats are united in their support for existing revenue raisers in the package and that it is just a matter of time until Senate leadership assembles the right mix of spending provisions to bring the entire caucus on board with the overall measure. ABMA will continue to raise awareness of the negative impact these tax increases will have on our sector and join with other industry groups in opposing enactment of this package in its current form.
In Friday’s Federal Register, this notice will appear, which establishes the young truck driver pilot apprenticeship program that was authorized in the infrastructure bill enacted last year. Recall, this program will allow 18-21 year old drivers to operate tractor trailers in interstate commerce following a rigorous training regimen and time in the cab with an experienced truck driver. ABMA signed onto comments filed this week with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration with recommendations on implementing the pilot in the most efficient and effective manner. Those comments may be found here.
Softwood Lumber Duties
In late December, Canadian trade minister Mary Ng said in a statement that Canada will challenge under the US Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) rules the doubling of antidumping and countervailing duties on Canadian softwood lumber imposed by the Commerce Department earlier in the month. The International Trade Administration’s Federal Register Notice of USMCA Request for Panel Review issued on January 5 is here. A challenge at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the original duties remains incomplete, with the WTO’s Appellate Body not currently functioning due to lack of a quorum. We reported in December that a group of over 80 House members also weighed in with a letter expressing concerns about the implications of these duties on new housing construction and industry employees. ABMA will continue to remain close to the action on this issue and will keep you apprised of developments.