WASHINGTON — After hitting a roadblock in Congress last week, a coalition of top footwear players is renewing an aggressive push to eliminate duties on certain types of lower-priced and children’s footwear.
The House passed an $819 billion stimulus package last Wednesday night that did not include a provision for the Affordable Footwear Act, which is a top priority for the industry this year. An attempt to add an amendment to the Senate’s version of the bill also failed last week. The duty-dropping act would eliminate some $800 million in tariffs the coalition deems “regressive.”
Nate Herman, senior director of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said industry officials will redouble their efforts in pressing senators to add an amendment to the Senate version of the stimulus package, which is expected to come to a vote next week. If that effort fails, they will also seek to add the measure during the conference committee, which will have to reconcile differences between the House and Senate stimulus bills.
“We are still trying to find a way to get into the stimulus [bill],” said Herman. “It is still possible with the Senate before the final vote, because there will be a lot of amendments and also a conference committee.”
Failing all those avenues, Herman said the coalition still believes it has strong momentum and support from congressional leaders to get the bill passed this year.
Still, it will have to be reintroduced in both the House and Senate under a new Congress, and the coalition will have to build support again for co-sponsors.
Despite the obstacles, Herman said considerable progress has been made.
“The difference at this point is that the leadership is all familiar with it and we haven’t had real opposition,” Herman said. “We are doing something completely unprecedented. Congress has only once before unilaterally eliminated duties for an industry.”