In another example of deft and ginger lobbying midst the closing days of a U.S. Congress, the U.S. Travel Association and its partners were able to secure both House and Senate backing for reauthorization of Brand USA through Fiscal Year 2027. Two days after the House of Representatives voted for the measure, which had been incorporated into a massive $1.4 trillion funding bill to keep the U.S. government operating for another fiscal year, the Senate approved it on Dec. 19, not long before adjourning for 2019, and while most attention in the nation’s capital was focused on votes by the House to impeach President Donald Trump.
The action was uncannily similar to the maneuvering of US Travel in December 2015, when Congress approved an extension of Brand USA (it is still officially known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion), which was created with the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, by quietly dropping the language reauthorizing Brand USA into a measure that funded the U.S. Capitol police as part of the Omnibus Government Appropriations in a bill that was approved by the Senate late on a Saturday, December 13, 2014—the last day of the 113th Congress.
The reauthorization contains some changes in way in which the money collected to operate the public-private sector agency is allocated, but it will continue to function essentially as is. (The U.S. government collects funds through a fee levied on travelers to the United States from Visa Waiver countries using ESTA—the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It matches funds that are raised by the private sector.)
US Travel President and CEO Roger Dow, who played a lead role in shepherding through Congress the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, which created Brand USA, said of the legislation extending the life of the organization through Fiscal Year 2017, “By approving Brand USA, Congress sends a clear message to the American people: smart, bipartisan policymaking that generates economic value and jobs is alive and well in Washington. Brand USA’s work to boost international visitation is absolutely essential to the U.S. trade balance, and the fact that it operates without sending American taxpayers a bill make it a model public-private partnership that delivers proven results. Congress should be widely applauded for this move by anyone who cares about the U.S. economy and trade.”
One of the reasons that the travel and tourism industry has been able to garner support for Brand USA is that US Travel and other industry organizations lobbying for the agency have created bipartisan support for it. This was evident as Dow singled out for praise the co-sponsors of Brand USA reauthorization in the Senate and House—Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and U.S. Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Greg Walden (R-OR).