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Congress gears up to smack down President Biden's Chinese solar handout

Congress moved closer to rebuking President Biden’s action allowing Chinese solar manufacturers to bypass U.S. tariffs, setting up a showdown over a key part of his administration’s climate agenda.

During a markup hearing Wednesday morning, in a 26-13 vote, the House Ways and Means Committee green lit a bipartisan resolution that would repeal Biden’s executive action last year suspending tariffs on Chinese solar panels. The move sets up floor vote which is expected to take place early next week and which is likely to garner significant Democratic support.

“Today’s resolution is an important step to ensure the United States maintains crucial protections for American workers and our economy as a whole,” Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said in a statement. “I appreciate that concern for China’s behavior is shared by so many of us, and I hope this is the first of several bipartisan things we can work together on as it relates to confronting the continued threat China poses on so many fronts.”

“Members of the Ways and Means Committee clearly recognize that Congress must act in this instance to hold accountable bad actors in global trade and, in particular, Chinese wrongdoing,” he continued. “I am pleased that today we can act in a bipartisan way to protect and defend American workers.”

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Jason Smith

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said he hoped the resolution was the first of many actions combating the threat posed by China. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In June 2022, Biden implemented a 24-month moratorium on the enforcement of solar panel anti-circumvention tariffs introduced under the Obama administration to protect U.S. companies. The White House characterized the move as a two-year “bridge” that would allow companies to build solar panel production capabilities on U.S. soil.

The move, however, came after the Commerce Department said months earlier it would investigate whether Chinese manufacturers were routing solar panels through countries in Southeast Asia to avoid U.S. tariffs. And in December, the agency published its preliminary findings showing four large solar companies had routed products through Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam to circumvent duties.

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A month after the Commerce Department’s determination, the resolution marked up Wednesday was introduced by a group of Republicans and Democrats led by Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., and Bill Posey, R-Fla., and joined by Reps. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., Bob Latta, R-Ohio, Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and Garret Graves, R-La. The bill utilizes the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a law dating back nearly three decades that allows Congress to revoke federal regulation.

“The bipartisan Solar CRA is a commonsense piece of legislation that protects American workers and manufacturers by ensuring Chinese solar manufacturers that are illegally violating U.S. trade law are held accountable,” Coalition for a Prosperous America spokesperson Nick Iacovella told Fox News Digital.

“It is a false choice to say that we need to increase imports of Chinese solar made from coal-fired power plants and Uyghur forced labor to fight climate change,” he added. “Lawmakers that oppose this bipartisan bill on the grounds of climate change are nothing short of hypocrites.” 

President Biden took action last year to allow Chinese solar manufacturers to bypass U.S. tariff laws. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Iacovella noted a recent study from Cornell University that showed increased domestic solar manufacturing would lead to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.

Meanwhile, solar industry officials who oppose the CRA have also made a push to lobby against the resolution on Capitol Hill. They argue the bill would hurt U.S. green energy goals and lead to job reductions.

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“The Ways and Means Committee just took a hammer to business certainty and American energy independence,” Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. “This use of the Congressional Review Act is in direct conflict with the bipartisan goal of growing America’s domestic solar manufacturing industry.” 

“The Committee’s vote will end up hurting businesses that are trying to create jobs and support our communities,” she continued. “When the bill comes to the House floor, we hope lawmakers vote to protect American workers and support American manufacturing.”

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