Sen. Rob Portman is co-sponsoring a bill to reform the application of tariffs, but the legislation has run into snags and confusion along the way.
After the call, however, Portman’s communications director, Jeff Sadosky, sent an email to clarify that Thune and Blunt are not co-sponsors of the legislation.
Camp’s office was also insisting that Blunt was not a co-sponsor.
Sadosky later said that Portman mentioned Blunt and Thune only as part of the working group that crafted the bill, not as co-sponsors.
Asked about it the next day, a Senate aide said Thune’s signature had perhaps been confused for another Member’s signature and that the South Dakota Republican was not a co-sponsor.
But pressed for details, the source said the signature snafu didn’t actually happen.
“There was miscommunication at the staff level — there was no confusion on the co-sponsor signature list as previously mentioned,” the source said.
A GOP source said Friday that Thune is still reviewing the bill and might sign on.
But Blunt is less likely to join the cause. Being a Republican from McCaskill’s state could provide her with political cover as the GOP targets her for defeat this year.
Spokeswoman Amber Marchand said, “Senator Blunt is working with his colleagues in the House and Senate and looking at all of the options on the table to ensure these tax reductions are passed to help American manufacturers this year.”
A second Senate aide said that despite the awkwardness, there’s no opposition to the bill from Republicans.
“At the end of the day, Senators just want to help businesses avoid needless tariffs without getting caught up in the earmark fight again. They see this reform as avoiding the earmark trap and helping more small businesses getting relief than the old process. Obviously, it’s a sensitive issue because of Camp, but many see this as the only answer to a thorny issue,” the source said.
Adding another wrinkle though, was a House GOP aide who on Friday registered concerns about whether the bill is constitutional.
“Under the McCaskill approach Congress abdicates its specific authority and responsibility under Article 1, Section 8 to levy duties and transfers that authority to an unaccountable agency. The McCaskill bill leaves Congress uninformed about the provisions until the very end and does not allow Congress to control how provisions are considered by the [International Trade Commission],” the source said, leaving out any references to Portman or DeMint’s co-sponsorship.
“It turns the ITC from investigator for Congress to decision-maker in lieu of Congress. It would likely result in an expansion of the size of government and a less public, open process. It would also make it harder for small businesses and job creators who don’t have experience dealing with complex bureaucracies, but do know their local Member of Congress and Senator,” the source said.