September Legislative Update
September 24, 2013

Kerlikowske Nominated for Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

On August 1, President Obama announced his intent to nominate White House “drug czar” R. Gil Kerlikowske to serve as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  Mr. Kerlikowske previously served as the director of national drug control in the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House since 2009.  Before that, he was chief of police in Seattle, Washington for nine years. 

Mr. Kerlikowske must be confirmed by the Senate before he can take office.  The next step in his confirmation process is for the Senate Finance Committee, the committee of oversight, to hold a hearing to consider his nomination.   A hearing has not yet been scheduled, but is expected to take place in the next few months. 

CBP has been without an official head since December 2011, when then-CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin stepped down.  Bersin was a recess appointment who was never confirmed by the Senate.  Two individuals have filled the acting commissioner role since Bersin’s departure – David Aguilar serving through the end of March 2013 when he retired, followed by Thomas Winkowski, who is the current acting commissioner. 

For more information on Mr. Kerlikowske, see the President’s August 1 press release announcing more key administration posts.

Generalized Systems of Preferences Program Lapses

Congress failed to pass a bill renewing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a program that allows certain products from developing countries to enter the U.S. duty-free, before it expired on July 30.  The bill, S. 1331, introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), would extend the GSP program through September 30, 2015.  The Senate attempted to pass the bill by unanimous consent, but Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Tom Coburn (R-KY) each raised objections to the legislation.  Senator Hagan later dropped her objection, which had been raised as a constituent issue, but Senator Coburn continued to object to the funding provision of the bill. 

The GSP bill’s funding provision, known as a “corporate payment shift,” would move the time that companies with assets greater than $1 billion make their corporate tax payments.  Senator Coburn expressed support for the GSP program, but could not support the funding provision, which he called a “gimmick,” because it would satisfy congressional pay-go requirements without actually raising any additional revenue to off-set the tariff reductions. 

Action on the bill began in the Senate because the House Republican Leadership insisted it pass without amendment.  Since the Senate failed to act, there was no time for House consideration before the program expired.  If Congress takes action on the bill later in the session, it will have to include a retroactive provision if it wants to ensure a seamless extension for importers who use the program. 

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