Senate passes resolution overturning Biden solar tariff pause
Nine Senate Democrats joined Republicans this evening to pass a measure overturning President Biden’s solar tariff pause, sending it to the White House for a likely veto.
Why it matters: The 56-41 vote highlighted unusual political faults over China’s role in the global energy transition that could bubble up on the 2024 campaign trail.
- The House passed the measure late last week, but neither chamber secured the supermajority needed to override a veto.
Driving the news: The Congressional Review Act resolution would toss out a tariff waiver for solar panels imported from four Southeast Asian countries.
- Democratic "yes" votes: Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, Debbie Stabenow, Gary Peters, Tammy Baldwin, John Fetterman and Finance Chair Ron Wyden.
- GOP Sen. Rand Paul joined most other Democrats in voting "no."
- The vote caps a weeks-long saga that sent anxiety through the major renewable energy trade organizations.
- If the resolution were enacted, solar companies would face retroactive fees.
Flashback: Biden issued the waiver in 2022, pausing tariffs on solar panels from Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand for two years.
- The move preempted a pending Commerce Department investigation into whether solar manufacturers were circumventing tariffs on Chinese panels.
- In a preliminary finding in December, the agency said some companies had been skirting U.S. levies by sending panels through those countries for processing.
- A final determination from Commerce is expected as soon as this month.
Of note: Swing-state Democrats up in 2024 split different ways.
- Jacky Rosen has for weeks led opposition to the resolution among Senate Democrats, lobbying colleagues in caucus meetings and circulating materials urging a “no” vote.
- "I see it as a vote that will either keep American jobs or kill American jobs," Rosen told Axios, arguing that rescinding the waiver would cripple solar installers.
- Meanwhile, Brown, Casey and Manchin — who could face competitive races — were prominent waiver opponents.
The intrigue: China controls the vast majority of the solar supply chain, and waiver proponents argue the pause gives the industry a grace period to onshore panel manufacturing, as the IRA tax credits come into the fold.
- Rick Scott, the resolution’s GOP lead sponsor, framed it as a referendum on China.
- The Democrats who voted for it said they want to enforce trade law aimed at countering unfair trade practices by China — and shield U.S. manufacturers from the cheap imports that currently dominate the market.
- Wyden, for instance, said it was a vote “to protect the American manufacturers,” pointing back to the large suite of incentives he authored in the climate law.