This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) that would have eliminated $150 million in funding for Brazil’s cotton industry. This amendment was offered to a continuing resolution funding the federal government through September 2011, and cutting $61 billion in federal funding for many government programs.
The Obama administration agreed to provide Brazil with this funding 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 $150 million to Brazilian cotton farmers.
Kind urged support for his amendment: “…My amendment is very simple and straightforward. It would save the American taxpayers $150 million a year by ending a new American taxpayer subsidy that is going to Brazilian cotton agribusiness. If this program sounds crazy, it's because it is. But it's also the truth. How did we get to this point? Well, Brazil had a successful WTO challenge against our own cotton subsidy program under our own farm bill. They prevailed; and you would think that the logical, reasonable response from us would be to reform our cotton subsidy program. But that's not what happened. Instead, a new program has been created to the tune of $150 million per year to buy off Brazil cotton agribusiness so they won't pursue economic sanctions against our country.”
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) also supported the amendment: “I think if we were to have a contest…for the single stupidest thing the federal government could do, it would be to take $120 million more of American tax dollars and send it to subsidize Brazilian cotton farmers so we can continue to subsidize American cotton farmers. That's what we're talking about.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) opposed the amendment: “…This settlement is necessary to prevent Brazil from imposing almost $1 billion in retaliation against American goods and services, as it's entitled to do. This retaliation could take many dangerous and costly forms, including high tariffs on our American sales abroad and allowing Brazil to no longer protect American intellectual property rights. Such retaliation would be devastating. It would cost U.S. jobs and harm thousands of innocent workers who have nothing to do with this case.”
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) also opposed the amendment: “While far from perfect, this agreement was arranged by the Obama administration and the country of Brazil. This [amendment] will incite a retaliatory trade war against the United States' intellectual properties….it will hurt other segments of our economies….Voting for this is a vote to institute a trade war with Brazil, no matter what the rhetoric is from the other [Democratic] side.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 183-246. Voting “yea” were 108 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 75 Republicans. 164 Republicans and 82 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have eliminated $150 million in funding for Brazil’s cotton industry.