The House and Senate will soon start negotiating differences between their two approaches to increase U.S. competitiveness abroad.
The Senate on Monday took a major step toward setting up the negotiations by gutting the House-passed America COMPETES Act and replacing it with the text of the Senate's bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness Act. The Senate then approved the new version, 68-28, on Monday.
According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the procedure was done to initiate a conference committee between the chambers to negotiate a final version of the legislation. Schumer said he's hopeful the conference committee will be initiated before the upcoming two-week congressional recess for Easter.
There are notable differences between the two chamber’s bills along both policy and partisan lines.
The House package includes the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, an initiative to give more authority to the Federal Maritime Commission to end port backups and rein in shipping rates. The Senate is seeking to pass its version of OSRA as a standalone measure. House leaders have said they are hopeful OSRA will be included in COMPETES negotiation, but a clear path has not yet emerged.
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The House bill would renew and boost Trade Adjustment Assistance and renew the Generalized System of Preferences. GSP lapsed last year, and TAA will later this year. The Senate package would also renew and adjust GSP but does not address TAA.
The America COMPETES originally passed the House in February on a party-line 222-210 vote. The USICA bill passed the Senate last year, 68-32.
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