July 28, 2021

Washington Wire: House Education Committee Conducts Hearing on IRAPs


House Education Committee Conducts Hearing on IRAPs  

Last month, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment held a hearing on the Labor Department’s Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP). The Labor Department’s proposal installs a procedure for recognizing Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) and defines the responsibilities of an SRE. Under this proposal, the Administrator of the Office of Apprenticeship will work with SREs and help them recognize IRAPs. Finally, the proposed rule summarizes how IRAPs will function within the existing registered apprenticeship system and addresses America’s skills gap. Sources anticipate a finalized version of the IRAP rule in April 2020.
During the hearing, Committee Democrats expressed apprehensions about the new program redirecting resources from and discouraging more conventional and recognized registered apprenticeships. These anxieties were challenged by Ranking Member Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), who maintained it was “important to give recognition to increasingly innovative and growing employer-led apprenticeship programs,” and that employers understand their workforce needs better than the government.
The Committee also scrutinized the agency’s misappropriation of $1.1 million of funds intended for registered apprenticeship programs. At the end of October and at the recommendation of House Democrats, the Labor Department’s Inspector General reported the agency improperly redirected these funds to IRAPs. Crucially, the Labor Department has not finalized its IRAP rule creating a new apprenticeship system and Congress has not allocated any funding for the program. At the hearing, the witness for the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration, John Pallasch, testified the agency took remedial action when it was alerted to the funding issue.



Bills to Strengthen Career Counseling, allow 529s for Training, Credentials
On December 6, U.S. House Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation allowing students and workers to use 529 education savings plans for workforce training and credentialing programs. The legislation allows 529 payments to pay for credentialing programs recognized by a state government or the federal government—or widely recognized as providing reputable credentials in the occupation. Senators earlier this year introduced similar legislation.
Separately, in November, the co-chairs of the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA), announced the Counseling for Career Choice Act. This bipartisan legislation amends the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by providing grants to states in order to assist in the implementation of statewide career counseling frameworks. In addition, the bill will leverage input from community stakeholders, such as educators and businesses, on how to improve statewide career counseling frameworks.



 House Democrats and Trump Administration Reach Agreement on New NAFTA
On December 10, 2019, surrounded by fellow Democrats, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced she had reached an agreement with the Trump administration on changes demanded by House Democrats and unions to the new NAFTA, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The AFL-CIO confirmed they will support the updated agreement, a significant boost to its prospects of generating a significant number of votes in favor by House Democrats.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House advisor Jared Kushner flew to Mexico to formally finalize the new terms of the agreement that the Mexican Senate is approving. House Democrats sought changes to provisions covering the environment, labor enforcement in Mexico, and generic prescription drugs. While details have yet to emerge, a last minute push by the Trump administration may lead to a requirement that automakers purchase 70 percent of steel smelted within North America to qualify for zero tariffs starting five years after the agreement enters into force.
It remains unlikely the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a vote on the new NAFTA in 2019, but likely will begin consideration at least at the committee level later this week or early next. The administration must also formally send to Congress a text, starting a timeline under which both the House and Senate must both vote. This sets up a possible vote by the house, then the Senate in 2020. Most sources indicate the new NAFTA will likely easily pass the Senate but questions remain about how many Democrats will vote in the House to provide President Trump this significant victory, which needs at least 218 members of the House of Representatives to pass and be sent to the Senate for approval.



USTR Again Considering whether to Implement Copper Tariffs
On December 6, 2019, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced it is again considering whether to impose tariffs on imported copper based alloys. One Voice strongly opposes the imposition of tariffs, testified, and filed formal comments this summer stating that no U.S. suppliers exist for the metals, a fact conceded to by one of the copper manufacturers. The USTR is seeking public comments in its Section 301 investigation involving the enforcement of U.S. WTO rights in the Large Civil Aircraft dispute, commonly known as the Boeing-Airbus dispute. Annex II of the USTR’s notice provides a list of products under consideration for the imposition of additional ad valorem duties of up to 100 percent, including copper products. One Voice will be submitting comments against the imposition of these tariffs and urges NTMA and PMA members to contact info@metalworkingadvocate.org if they are interested in filing their own comments or providing information for the associations’ comments.
The potential action covers the following:
7407.10.50 Refined copper, bars and rods
7407.21.90 Copper-zinc base alloys (brass), bars & rods nesoi, not having a rectangular cross section
7408.21.00 Copper-zinc base alloys (brass), wire
7408.29.10 Copper alloys (o/than brass, cupro-nickel or nickel-silver), wire, coated or plated with metal
7409.11.50 Refined copper, plates, sheets and strip, in coils, with a thickness over 0.15mm but less than 5 mm
7409.21.00 Copper-zinc base alloys (brass), plates, sheets and strip, in coils
7409.29.00 Copper-zinc base alloys (brass), plates, sheets and strip, not in coils
7409.31.50 Copper-tin base alloys (bronze), plates, sheets and strip, in coils, with a thickness o/0.15mm but less than 5mm & a width of 500mm or more
7409.31.90 Copper-tin base alloys (bronze), plates, sheets and strip, in coils, w/thickness o/0.15mm but less than 5mm & a width of less than 500mm
7409.40.00 Copper-nickel base alloys (cupro-nickel) or copper-nickel-zinc base alloys (nickel silver), plates, sheets and strip, w/thickness o/0.15mm
7409.90.90 Copper alloys (o/than brass/bronze/cupro-nickel/nickel silver), plates, sheets & strip, w/thick. o/0.15mm but less th/5mm & width less 500mm
7410.11.00 Refined copper, foil, w/thickness of 0.15 mm or less, not backed
7411.22.00 Copper-nickel base alloys (cupro-nickel) or copper-nickel-zinc base alloys (nickelsilver), tubes and pipes
7418.10.00 Copper & copper alloy table, kitchen, household articles & parts; pot scourers, scouring & polishing pads, gloves, etc



Trump Administration to Restore Steel and Aluminum Tariffs on Brazil and Argentina
On December 2, 2019, President Trump announced the U.S. will restore steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina because both countries have “massively devalued their currencies.” The Trump administration had exempted the two countries from steel and aluminum tariffs in March 2018, imposing a quota system instead. Experts view President Trump’s decision to implement the tariffs as a retaliatory move because China uses Brazil and Argentina as alternative suppliers for soybeans and other farm products instead of American farmers. According to reports, President Trump’s announcement caught both countries off guard as their currencies have fallen against the dollar unintentionally and they in fact are selling dollars, the opposite action of a country attempting to devalue their own currency.