Kennedy May Stall FSC/ETI Over Outsourcing, Overtime

Posted October 1, 2004 at 6:25pm

If House and Senate Republicans want to enact an international corporate-tax bill this week, they shouldn’t expect quick passage, at least in the Senate.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is actively trying to line up Democrats and Republicans to hold up action on the bill known as FSC/ETI if Republicans do not bow to their demands to eliminate provisions they say encourage outsourcing. Kennedy and his allies also want to retain Senate-backed language that prohibits the Labor Department from implementing new overtime regulations.

“Kennedy’s staff is trying to see how many charts are available for an extended floor debate,” a Senate Democratic staffer said.

While Kennedy is unlikely to propose an all-out filibuster of the corporate-tax bill, he hopes that his threat to prevent passage before both Houses leave for the election — a departure now slated for Oct. 8 — will cause Republican conferees to include the contentious provisions, the aide said.

The tax bill is designed to end European sanctions on U.S. goods. The bill’s passage is so urgent and, by itself, noncontroversial that it has been larded with miscellaneous tax provisions in both the House and Senate versions.

Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) is slated to present his proposal for compromise legislation to House and Senate conferees on Monday.

Because Democrats do not expect that the language they favor will be included, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a conferee, plans to offer an amendment in conference today to insert the overtime regulation restrictions, his spokesman, Maureen Knightly, said.

However, that amendment — as well as the proposal to eliminate the outsourcing provisions — is expected to fail on roughly party-line votes.

Thomas spokeswoman Christin Tinsworth said Democrats should wait to see Thomas’ final proposal on Monday before planning to filibuster the bill.

“It’s premature to judge what the content of the chairman’s mark will be,” said Tinsworth. “It’s premature to start plotting as [Democrats] have.”

Kennedy, along with Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), have already said Republicans can count on a filibuster if provisions in the House bill to institute a tobacco buyout are not coupled with the Senate’s desire to grant the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco products.

And Knightly indicated that Harkin views inclusion of both the overtime provision and FDA tobacco language as essential to garnering the senator’s support.

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s plan dovetails with a broader Senate Democratic effort next week to point out that the country is not safer, more secure nor economically stable under Republican control.

Playing off former President Ronald Reagan’s question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Democrats hope to highlight the failures of the Republican Congress and the Bush administration with a series of speeches and press conferences next week.

Next Monday, they’ll kick off the public relations effort by talking about the economy. Health care follows on Tuesday, jobs on Wednesday, Iraq and terrorism on Thursday, and education policy on Friday.