As Patriot Act stalls, Senate backs… craft beer

Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach
While the US Senators could not prevent parts of the Patriot Act from lapsing in the special Sunday session, they unanimously backed craft breweries. The bipartisan resolution sailed through the chamber without objections.

Senate Resolution 188 expressedappreciation of the goals of American Craft Beer Week and commending the small and independent craft brewers of the United States.” It was proposed earlier in the day by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, and backed by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

By contrast, the Senate could not agree on renewing the three expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act, and attempts to pass the House-approved USA Freedom Act were stalled thanks to the bipartisan efforts of Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico). As a result, the provisions lapsed at midnight.

READ MORE: Goodbye Section 215: Patriot Act key surveillance provisions expire

The text of Senator Cardin’s resolution is not yet available, but the Maryland lawmaker has long championed the cause of the craft beer industry.

In March, Senators Cardin and Collins submitted a law calling for reducing the excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of beer a brewery produce, from $7 to $3.50 per barrel.

Their “Small BREW [Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce] Act” was soon countered by the “Fair BEER [Brewers Excise and Economic Relief] Act”, which extended the tax relief to major breweries as well. Both proposals are currently under review by the Senate Finance Committee.

Lobbyists representing major beer producers have argued that reducing the tax burden on craft breweries alone was elitist and hurting the blue-collar consumers.

“You’re really talking about people who pave roads, lay dry wall, wire houses, deliver washing machines, do landscaping; they’re the ones paying for the light beer and the Mexican imports and they’re the ones paying the top of the dollar,” Chris Thorne of the Beer Institute told the Daily Beast in February. “And some chucklehead who’s making $150,000 a year could put down $50 or $45 bucks for a case of beer he’s a paying a much smaller tax.”

Beer has been part of the American experience from the colonial days. The Mayflower, a colony ship bound for Virginia in 1620, ended up landing at Cape Cod in today’s Massachusetts after running out of supplies.

"We could not now take time for further search our victuals being pretty much spent, especially our beer,” said the ship’s log book.

Between 1920 and 1933, in the period known as the Prohibition, the US outlawed alcohol by a constitutional amendment. However, popular demand forced the government to repeal the law at the height of the Great Depression.

"There are more craft breweries now than I think there were pre-Prohibition,” Mari Rodela of the DC Brewers’ Guild told National Public Radio earlier this year. “We are a thriving and growing industry - 110,000 people across roughly 3,200 breweries across the country.”

The Beer Institute, which represents a number of craft breweries in addition to corporate giants Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, estimates the industry accounts for roughly $246 billion in economic activity.