Senate Republicans beat back an effort by Democrats Tuesday to end tax breaks for companies who send jobs offshore only to import products back into the United States. The House has passed a series of similar legislation over the past several weeks, as Democrats work to portray Republicans as in the pocket of Big Business at the expense of workers, the economy, the trade deficit and the budget deficit. That message was muddied, however, by the defection of four Democrats and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, who voted against the motion to end a filibuster.
"I wish this election would be a simple referendum on this issue," Dick Durbin, the Senate's number two Democrat, said on the Senate floor Monday night. "Who in the world believes that we should be rewarding corporations in our country for shipping jobs overseas?"
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one powerful answer to Durbin's query. The Chamber, which represents businesses in the United States, has aggressively battled the effort to reduce outsourcing. During the debate over the stimulus, the U.S. Chamber fought efforts to include a provision that would encourage taxpayer money to be spent on products made by domestic companies. It opposed the outsourcing bill, arguing in a letter to the Senate that "the concept of economic growth is not a zero-sum game. Replacing a job that is based in another country with a domestic job does not stimulate economic growth or enhance the competitiveness of American worldwide companies."
In 2004, Chamber head Tom Donohue made the case that outsourcing shouldn't be a concern because only "two, maybe three million jobs, maybe four" would be lost. "American companies employ 140 million Americans," Donohue said in a CNN interview that Chamber opponents are happy to remind him of. "They provide health care for 160 million Americans. They provide training in terms of 40 billion a year. The outsourcing deal over three or four or five years and the two or three sets of numbers are only going to be, you know, maybe two, maybe three million jobs, maybe four."