Supporters of a bill to impose tougher restrictions on textile imports, after failing to override President Reagan's veto, promise to renew their efforts when Congress returns next year.
"We'll be back," Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., said Tuesday after the House voted 272-152 to override Reagan's veto but fell 11 votes short of the two-thirds needed to enact the measure over his objections.The action appeared to close the book on the battle for textile legislation this year, with two weeks at most remaining before lawmakers adjourn to campaign full time.
Utah's three House representatives voted against the override.
The bill, designed to protect American industry from foreign competition, would freeze current textile and apparel imports at 1987 levels and limit future increases to 1 percent annually. The same would apply to non-rubber footwear except that no future growth would be allowed.
Countries that increase their purchases of U.S. farm goods would get larger shares of the U.S. textiles market. A pilot program would be established, allowing the government to auction off import licenses. A special quota would be created for imported silk neckties.
Reagan vetoed the measure Sept. 28, saying it represented "protectionism at its worst" and would not only narrow consumer choices but inhibit trade and cost America overseas sales. Sponsors said it would save American jobs now in jeopardy because of a wave of Asian textiles and apparel crowding U.S. merchandise out of stores.
House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, lobbied furiously for the override and sponsors said they were close to two-thirds at one point. "But we had some guys we just couldn't pull across," said Rep. W.G. Hefner, D-N.C.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Hollings said in a statement. He claimed the bill was similar to provisions endorsed by Reagan several years ago before the president became critical of "this protectionism nonsense."
"The failure to override the veto means that the next Congress or the next administration must act to restructure our current inefficient textile policy," Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., said after the vote.
Textile and apparel workers bused in for the occasion from various East Coast cities held a flag-waving rally on the steps of the Capitol at noon, chanting, "Save our jobs, save our jobs." Some then watched glumly from the House galleries as the legislation met its doom.
Critics portrayed the measure as guaranteed to spur price increases that would amount to a fresh tax on consumers.
"Stand up for consumers, stand up for America, support your president's veto," urged Rep. William Frenzel, R-Minn.
Rep. Sam Gibbons, D-Fla., another of the bill's fiercest critics, said "it imposes a tax on consumers of about $20 billion a year."
Rep. Ed Jenkins, D-Ga., sometimes said to occupy "the textile seat" on the House Ways and Means Committee, scoffed at the notion of new price hikes under the bill and added that import curbs are common in Asian countries.
"They have quotas all over Asia," Jenkins said.
Rep. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, whose home-state shoe factories have been hammered by imports, urged lawmakers to ignore "the ideological rot of an obsolete free-trade policy" and approve "this sensible trade bill."
If the House "were to do this by secret ballot, there would be no doubt about the outcome," said Rep. Tom Downey, D-N.Y. "To override the president's veto makes no sense. Open markets make us all richer."
"Don't be dissuaded by those who tell you that this is a great political issue," said Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "Bad economics doesn't make for good politics."