In a memo dated February 11, 2016, NTEU National President Anthony M. Reardon wrote:
Today, the Senate approved the conference report to HR 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 by a vote of 75 to 20. HR 644 reauthorizes and modernizes the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, streamlines customs procedures, beefs up the protection of intellectual property rights on U.S. exports and cracks down on countries trying to evade import duties. The House agreed to the conference report, 256-158, on December 11, 2015.
The inclusion of a controversial internet tax provision in the conference report, unrelated to the underlying trade enforcement bill, caused several members of the House and Senate, who otherwise would have voted in favor of the bill, to vote against final passage.
In addition to updating trade enforcement strategy and giving CBP new tools to identify and stop illegal trading practices, the bill includes language expressing the Sense of Congress in support of the Foreign Language Awards Program (FLAP). The language states that FLAP incentivizes CBP Officers “to attain and maintain competency in a foreign language, thereby improving the efficiency of operations for the functioning of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's security mission, making the United States a more welcoming place when foreign travelers find officers can communicate in their language, and helping to expedite traveler processing to reduce wait times.”
This “Sense of Congress” language was added to the bill at the request of NTEU to reinforce Congress’ continuing support of this program and to ensure that CBP maintains full funding of FLAP.
The bill now goes to the President for his signature.