Affordable Footwear Act Stumbles in Congress

A coalition of leading players in the footwear industry appeared headed for a setback in their efforts to add a provision that would eliminate duties on certain types of lower-priced and children’s footwear to a massive economic stimulus package before Congress this week.

The Affordable Footwear Coalition continued to push Wednesday for inclusion of the Affordable Footwear Act they fought for last year that would eliminate some $800 million in tariffs they deemed “regressive” across several footwear categories.

However, an attempt to add an amendment in committee to the overall package in the Senate’s version of the bill failed Tuesday night and the House bill, which was expected to be approved Wednesday night, did not include the provision.

“Although time is ticking away on the opportunity to be included in the stimulus, we are still trying,” said a spokeswoman for the American Apparel & Footwear Association.

The footwear industry’s top legislative priority would eliminate roughly 43 percent of the $1.8 billion in annual duties collected by the U.S. government. Combined, companies and trade associations have spent more than $900,000 in the last year and a half on the initiative.

The House was expected to vote on and pass the $825 billion economic stimulus package on Wednesday night, clearing the first hurdle for President Obama, who has made jump-starting the economy and creating millions of jobs a cornerstone of his new presidency.

Confronting the worst U.S. recession in decades, the economic blueprint would provide approximately $275 billion in tax cuts to workers and businesses and $550 billion for domestic spending programs over two years.

The massive spending and tax cut legislation is aimed at creating and saving 3 million to 4 million jobs by pumping funds into new programs to repair the nation’s aging roads, bridges and highways, as well as alternative energy programs and education initiatives.

“The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat – they cannot afford inaction or delay,” said Obama after emerging Wednesday morning from a meeting with some of the nation’s top chief executives.  “The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that theirs will be the next job cut – they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action – bold and swift and that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks.”

“We don’t have a moment to spare,” Obama proclaimed.

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