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Letter on H.R. 2578, the "Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017"
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE:
As you consider H.R. 2578, the “Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Appropriations Act, 2017,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business
federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses of all sizes, sectors,
and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations, and dedicated to
promoting, protecting, and defending America’s free enterprise system, urges you to provide for
programs and initiatives important to the business community, including the Manufacturing
Extension Partnership (MEP) program, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR),
intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement, and mitigating burdensome practices by the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The MEP program helps manufacturers become more competitive by improving their
productivity, leveraging private sector investments, and assisting the U.S. industrial base to
become an innovative high tech global competitor. The Chamber urges greater investment in the
program by providing at least $141 million for qualified MEP centers.
The Chamber requests that you commit at least $59.4 million for the Office of the USTR
for FY17. At present, USTR is advancing several of the largest trade pacts in U.S. history,
including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement with 11 other Asia-Pacific
nations; the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the EU; and the Trade
in Services Agreement (TISA) with more than 50 nations. Once concluded, these agreements
will provide American exporters and the workers they employ with significantly improved
access to markets representing two-thirds of the global economy. This moderate increase in
funding is badly needed to strengthen the ability of USTR—one of the smallest and most
efficient agencies in the U.S. government—to open international markets to U.S. goods and
services and ensure effective enforcement of U.S. trade agreements for the American people.
Additionally, the Chamber encourages keeping the Office of the United States Trade
Representative (USTR) within the Executive Office of the President.
The Chamber would like to highlight the importance of the Department of Justice
Criminal Division and FBI continuing to make IPR enforcement an investigative and
prosecutorial priority. The Chamber urges the Department’s IP-dedicated personnel to
investigate notorious U.S. based content theft sites and apps that are engaged in illegal activity
that threatens companies and consumers.
The Chamber also emphasizes the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration’s (NTIA) important responsibilities relating to the eventual transition of the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. NTIA has steadfastly opposed a
transition to any mechanism that would deviate from the current multistakeholder model of
Internet governance and should be allowed to take any needed steps to achieve the caution and
transparency that the Chamber agrees is essential for a safe and smooth transition of the technical
functions. Any hindering of NTIA’s ability to conduct the proper levels of due diligence through
the use of currently available resources could result in harm to U.S. businesses and Internet users
as a whole.
The Chamber supports amendment #4690 offered by Sen. Alexander that would prohibit
any funding to be expended on collecting information from employers pertaining to EEOC’s
recently proposed changes to its EEO-1 reporting form. EEOC’s proposed changes to the form
would require employers to submit data regarding employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked
broken down by race, ethnicity and gender, to the Commission. This would be an extremely
onerous and costly administrative exercise for employers and the data that would be produced
would not provide any insight as to whether an employer’s pay practices are discriminatory.
Additionally, the EEOC’s proposal fails to set forth appropriate safeguards to ensure that this
sensitive information would remain confidential.
The Chamber further supports the provision in this legislation to require the Department
of Justice to report on its practice of entering into civil settlements that require donations to
organizations that are not parties to litigation. This practice raises serious separation of powers
concerns and undermines Congress’s exclusive appropriations authority. Congress alone has the
power of the purse, and agencies should not be allowed to circumvent the appropriations process
to fund special interest groups. The Chamber encourages the Senate to prohibit the practice
altogether by inserting provisions similar to that contained in S. 3050, the “Stop Settlement Slush
Funds Act of 2016.”
Lastly, the Chamber strongly opposes adoption of any provision that would blacklist
government contractors solely on the basis of a change in the location of their corporate
domicile. Debarring contractors who are in full compliance with U.S. law would undermine the
principles of full and open competition and best value for the taxpayer. Moreover, enactment of
such proposals could place at risk the jobs of American workers who provide goods and services
to the U.S. government.
The Chamber appreciates your consideration of these recommendations as you consider
H.R. 2578, the “Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017.”
R. Bruce Josten