This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) that would prohibit funding provided by an agriculture bill from being used to support Brazil’s cotton industry. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs.
[The Obama administration agreed to provide Brazil $147 million annually for cotton production after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the U.S. was illegally subsidizing American cotton production. In order to avoid $829 million in sanctions that could have resulted from the WTO ruling, the Obama administration reached an agreement with Brazil to pay $147 million annually to Brazilian cotton farmers.]
Kind urged support for his amendment: “Just to show you how perverted these farm programs have gotten, recently Brazil challenged our own domestic cotton subsidy program and prevailed in the WTO court. Now you would expect our rational response would be to reform our cotton subsidy program, to come into compliance with that WTO decision, to end these subsidies that you really can't justify here to our cotton producers, and we would solve this problem….But that's not the approach that was taken. In fact, the administration recently set up a new subsidy program that is now going to subsidize Brazil cotton producers….Let me repeat that. We are spending $147 million a year in order to bribe the Brazilian government so that they don't enforce the sanctions that they're entitled to now because of our unwillingness to reform our own cotton subsidy program. That is wrong, and that is what my amendment would address. It would prohibit the use of funds through this Agriculture appropriation bill going to this new subsidy program to subsidize the Brazil cotton industry.”
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) opposed Kind’s amendment: “If this amendment passes, it will--it could incite a trade war. Brazil could immediately impose $800 million in retaliatory tariffs on a variety of U.S. goods.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) argued: “We lost this case in the WTO. So the question today isn't about cotton subsidies or even saving money; it's about the smart way to address this issue that protects American jobs. Now I am very sympathetic to this amendment. Paying Brazil nearly $12 million a month is not the right way to resolve this issue, and I agree with that. In fact, America should simply live up to its WTO obligation and insist that others do the same as well. The settlement that's in place today is necessary to prevent Brazil from imposing almost $1 billion of new tariffs, new taxes on American products when we try to sell them into Brazil. And it's not just agriculture products. As you heard Chairman Frank Lucas talk, he made the point that not only can Brazil penalize our ag products, they can tax and tariff a broad range of products.”
The House agreed to Kind’s amendment by a vote of 223-197. Voting “yea” were 128 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 95 Republicans. 141 Republicans and 56 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would prohibit funding provided by an agriculture bill from being used to support Brazil’s cotton industry. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate. When the House passed this amendment, the Senate had not yet taken it up. Thus, Brazil’s agreement with the U.S. on cotton production remained intact, and the U.S. continued to provide funding for the Brazilian cotton industry.