Spending Against Ryan’s Border Tax Jumps Even as Its Chances Dim

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A retail trade group almost tripled its federal lobbying spending during the second quarter of 2017 as it tried to kill a centerpiece of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s tax plan -- the border-adjusted levy on imports.
The National Retail Federation, whose members include retailers that rely on imported goods, spent almost $5 million during the three months ending June 30 compared with $1.
68 million during the same time period a year earlier, according to disclosures filed Thursday with the government.
The House GOP tax blueprint backed by Ryan includes the levy, which would replace the 35 percent corporate rate with a 20 percent tax on U.
companies’ domestic sales and imports, while exempting their exports.
The measure is estimated to raise about $1 trillion over a decade and would help pay for individual and corporate tax cuts that have been promised by Republicans as part of a once-in-a-generation tax overhaul.
Spending on tax lobbying is expected to increase as the issue becomes the top legislative priority for the administration and Congress after efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have faltered.
Lobbying spending by many health-care companies already showed signs of slowing down in the second quarter.
Senate Republicans and the White House have been cool to the border-adjustment concept.
While Ryan and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady have said the so-called BAT faces stiff political opposition, they haven’t completely abandoned the measure.
“If a border adjustment isn’t politically ready or needs more study, we have to find the solution,” Brady told Fox Business Network Thursday.
“We’re looking at a number of proposals from the past as well as new ideas on how to tackle that problem.
” Nike, Best Buy The NRF has spent more than $7.
3 million on lobbying in 2017, while another trade group, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, has spent more than $1.
During the second quarter, RILA increased its spending to $870,000 compared with $750,000 the prior year.
Individual companies opposed to the BAT, such as apparel-maker Nike Inc.
and retailer Best Buy Co.
, also increased their spending during the second quarter.
Three of the top U.
retailers ramped up their lobbying spending in the first quarter of 2017.
, Best Buy Co.
 and Gap Inc.
almost quadrupled their combined spending compared with the first quarter of 2016, according to disclosures.
Companies disclose spending on lobbying broadly, rather than on individual proposals, so it’s hard to know exactly how much was dedicated to the border-adjusted tax specifically.
Still, it’s clear from companies’ statements and business models that the tax is among the top issues for industries that import goods and their associations.
BAT Supporters The NRF and RILA disclosed that they had lobbied on the BAT, as did Best Buy.
Nike said it lobbied on “Issues related to tax reform.
” In addition to lobbying efforts, some companies and associations opposed to the tax brought residents of legislators’ districts to speak in Washington, and advertisements by the NRF emphasized the group’s claim that the tax would raise prices on everyday goods.
Supporters of the tax, including export-heavy companies such as Dow Chemical Co.
and General Electric Co.
, have said it would foster U.
business and that a strengthening dollar would offset the higher price of goods.
GE raised its lobbying spending to $1.
62 million in the second quarter from $1.
21 million a year earlier, disclosures show.
Dow decreased its spending.
Retirement Savings Lobbying spending also focused on opposing another potential tax change that would raise revenue -- limiting tax advantages for retirement savings accounts.
The Save Our Savings coalition, which formed in April, disclosed that it spent $100,000 on lobbying during the second quarter.
The group says it aims to "protect Americans’ retirement savings as Congress plans a comprehensive tax overhaul," and has defended the tax-advantaged status of many retirement vehicles.
Disclosures by the coalition’s outside lobbyists say they were working on a tax overhaul’s effect on "retirement plan tax incentives" or "retirement plan savings incentives.
" The White House has said that 401(k)s, which are funded through pre-tax dollars, won’t be impacted by the administration’s tax code rewrite.
Health Lobbying Health-care companies largely scaled back lobbying spending in the second quarter after spending increased in the first three months of the year amid Congress’s first attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Drug maker Novartis AG spent $1.
8 million in the second quarter on lobbying, a $2.
2 million drop from the previous three months.
 Novartis didn’t list the American Health Care Act, the measure that was passed in the House, in its lobbying report.
Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd.
cut its lobbying expenditures to $840,000 from $2.
Seven other pharmaceutical firms reported a drop of $130,000 or more in their lobbying spending from the first quarter.
The American Hospital Association, which opposed both the House and Senate health overhaul plans, cut its second-quarter spending to $3.
Among insurers, Aetna Inc.
scaled back its spending the most, reporting $570,000 in spending, down from $1.
Not every company scaled back, though: Cigna Corp.
reported a $690,000 increase, up to $1.

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