House OKs resolution overturning Biden solar tariff pause

Source: By Nico Portuondo, E&E News • Posted: Sunday, April 30, 2023

Solar panels.

The House voted Friday to reinstate tariffs on solar panel imports from several Southeast Asian countries after President Joe Biden paused them in a bid to boost the U.S. solar industry, a key part of his climate agenda. Paul Sancya/AP Photo

The House approved legislation Friday morning to repeal President Joe Biden’s two-year pause on news tariffs for Chinese manufacturers routing panels through Southeast Asian countries.

H.J. Res. 39 cleared the House floor in a 221-202 vote, picking up 12 Democrats, despite solar installers saying new tariffs now would cripple the industry and undermine President Joe Biden’s climate goals.

The Commerce Department delayed tariffs to give the solar industry time to prepare. Resolution backers say the pause gives Chinese manufacturers a leg up over companies that make solar components in the United States.

“We cannot surrender to China or any other country and put American workers at a disadvantage,” said House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) on the House floor.

The Senate will take up the resolution as soon as next week and, under the Congressional Review Act, only needs a simple majority to reach the president’s desk. Biden has threatened to veto the resolution.

Ways and Means Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon spoke against the measure during debate, saying, “This resolution would undermine Americans’ hard-fought wins in the inflation reduction, although there are problems. No doubt the Chinese likely cheated, but President Biden stuck the right balance by instituting a temporary freeze on the solar tariffs.”

Congress has so far sent the president two resolutions of disapproval — one on the waters of the U.S. rule and another on green investing. Biden vetoed both, and sponsors have failed to get enough votes to override the president.

Observers have been wondering whether the solar tariff resolution could break that trend because lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are keen to see more domestic solar manufacturing. However, for now, the president seems poised to prevail.

Not only did most Democrats stick with the administration, but eight Republicans voted against the resolution, including Republican Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Andrew Garbarino and Marc Molinaro of New York.

Democratic supporters included Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, John Garamendi of California, Terri Sewell of Alabama, Dan Kildee of Michigan and Ro Khanna of California.

Several Democrats in the Senate have also expressed support, including Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Finance Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

The Commerce Department has already said it thinks Chinese companies are thwarting tariffs, but it has delayed a final opinion, citing “extensive case and rebuttal briefs.”

Solar installers, represented by the Solar Energy Industries Association, lobbied lawmakers and the administration last year to take immediate new tariffs off the table, citing project cancellations.