Feb. 9, 2016
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer angered some Republicans when he said Democrats would not grant the GOP unanimous consent to fix a typo that fundamentally changed a regulatory moratorium bill.

House Bid to Cut Red Tape Gets Snagged

Who thought easing government regulations would be so hard?

What was meant to be the House GOP’s week to cut red tape has turned out to be full of its own bureaucratic hurdles. A typo caused stumbling blocks for the week’s signature legislation, and another bill was sidelined when leadership could not drum up enough support to justify bringing it to the floor.

Following two Justice Department raids on Gibson Guitar Corp. plants, the House was supposed to vote on a bill that would strip regulations on imported wood. But support crumbled and leaders abruptly pulled the bill from the floor.

“They didn’t think they had the votes to pass it,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a lead sponsor of the bill. “This is an internal Republican issue. They were never courting or counting Democratic votes.”

Cooper’s bill would have amended anti-poaching laws that prohibit importing wood logged illegally according to foreign law and grandfathered products made before 2008, when the prohibition was put into effect.

For House leadership, the amendment to the Lacey Act was also supposed to be a hit on President Barack Obama after the Gibson raids, which they blamed on burdensome government regulations. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even invited Gibson’s CEO to be his guest in the House gallery during Obama’s State of the Union.

“The music industry and small-business owners across the country watched nervously as the federal government recently raided Gibson Guitar,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wrote in a May memo. “Just as fast as Congress can create unintended consequences, we can also fix them.”

Not so fast, however: The coalition of groups supporting the bill imploded. Because it would have been difficult to tell whether composite wood included illegal parts, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) included an amendment to exempt composite wood from the law. That move angered the hardwood lobby.

“They like that competitive advantage of not having to compete with wood coming in from overseas,” the Louisiana lawmaker said. “So we’ve got Members on our side who are subject to the states that have a lot of hardwood who are very concerned and nervous about it.”

Leadership pulled the bill from the floor and replaced it with an offshore oil drilling measure. Though GOP aides said they believed they could have pushed the bill over the finish line, it became more of a fight than they wanted to engage in right before the elections.

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