WASHINGTON — House Textile Caucus Chairman John Spratt (D., S.C.), aiming to hold President Clinton to his word regarding beefed-up inspections of textile imports, has asked administration officials when the additional money for this program will be available.
In letters to Office of Management and Budget director Leon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and Customs Service Deputy Director Samuel Banks, Spratt reminded them of the promises Clinton made to Textile Caucus members in November in exchange for their votes on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In December, Customs Commissioner George Weise said the additional money won’t be available until at least 1995.
Pointing out that NAFTA went into effect at the beginning of this year, the Spratt letters, sent early this month, said: “Frankly, 1995 is one year too late…The need for additional resources is immediate.”
Clinton, in his push for NAFTA votes, promised that $15 million in additional funds would be allocated to Customs for the enforcement of textile and apparel regulations and rules. He also pledged that Custom’s commercial program for this would be exempt from a government-wide effort to cut employment and, moreover, that Customs would hire 100 new employees to work on such enforcement, involving both NAFTA and non-NAFTA regulations.
“My colleagues and I take those pledges seriously,” Spratt wrote.
Spratt told the three officials that he wanted the information by Feb. 4, since he planned hearings by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer and Monetary Affairs, which he chairs, early this year.
He also noted that Clinton had promised other members of Congress that Customs would hire 100 additional employees along the U.S.-Mexico border to enforce beef and peanut restrictions.
“I would not consider any double counting of personnel to be consistent with the President’s promises to me,” Spratt wrote.
In his letter to Banks, Spratt asked for details on when the additional employees would be hired, what their responsibilities would be, and how the additional $15 million would be spent. Spratt also asked for details on the number of Customs employees working on Operation Q-Tip, a long-term Customs probe into textile transshipment.