U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill last week met with Caleres of St. Louis (formerly known as Brown Shoe Company) and received the Friend of the Footwear Industry award from the Footwear Distributors of & Retailers of America for her bipartisan legislation to ensure simpler trade processes for Missouri manufacturers and guard against the return of Congressional earmarks. “Walking a mile in the shoes of Missouri employers forced to navigate a knotty tariff relief system was difficult and complicated—until this bill passed,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and the Senate’s leading Democratic voice against earmarks. “I had the opportunity to hear firsthand how companies like Brown Shoe Company will no longer have to trip over cumbersome regulations to compete on a level playing field abroad, and I’m honored to receive their award for our continued efforts to kick out earmarks once and for all.” This spring, the bill—which McCaskill cosponsored with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio—was signed into law by President Obama, after it was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in a 415-2 vote. That vote followed the Republican Chairman and top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and leaders in the U.S. House, all announcing their support for the bill. In today's high-tech and globalized economy, American companies need a host of specialized materials, such as certain fibers or chemicals, to manufacture products. Often, those materials are not produced in the United States and can only be purchased abroad. Tariffs on importing those specialized materials produced overseas, however, can drive up costs, putting American manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to their foreign competitors. In some cases, tariffs on these specialized imports are so expensive that companies decide it’s in their best interest to move production from the U.S. to overseas altogether, hurting American job growth. Companies have gone without these tariff reductions since the last MTB expired in 2012, creating higher costs for American manufacturers. Tariff rules allowed companies that require products from overseas to obtain tariff relief. Congress had regularly passed a “Miscellaneous Tariff Bill” (MTB) comprised of hundreds of tariff reductions for such products. In order to have a tariff reduction provision included in the MTB, however, companies first had to find a member of Congress to sponsor the provision. Only when a provision had been introduced as a stand-alone bill could it be sent to the International Trade Commission. The Commission then reviewed all provisions, to determine if these un-vetted bills actually hurt U.S. manufacturers. The provisions that met standards were bundled into a package that became the MTB. In order to get a tariff relief bill introduced, these companies usually hired lobbyists to ask a member of Congress to sponsor their relief measure. This placed a difficult burden on many small businesses. McCaskill’s legislation would streamline the process for duty-suspensions by allowing companies to submit their proposals directly to the independent, non-partisan International Trade Commission and remove the influence of elected officials from the first stage of the process. Once the Commission reviews and accepts the proposal, it will be sent to Congress for final approval. These changes would bolster accountability by lessening the chance for backdoor earmarks and would reduce barriers for job-creators, who would no longer be forced to spend time and resources on hiring lobbyists to secure Congressional support at the start of the process. McCaskill has worked to reform the tariff relief process since 2012.