The Senate agreed Tuesday to proceed to a tourism bill that is a priority for Majority Leader Harry Reid .
The Nevada Democrat pushed the bill to the front of the agenda because of a decline in tourism that started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks and has since been exacerbated by recession.
The Senate voted 90-3 to limit debate on proceeding to the bill.
The measure would create a private company to advertise the United States as a tourist destination to foreigners. The company would be funded by private contributions matched by up to $100 million a year from the federal government. The bill also would establish assessments, including a $10-per-trip fee on foreign travelers, to help pay for the government’s matching funds.
“Other countries around the world spend millions of dollars promoting their countries,” Reid said Monday. “The United States spends nothing. We should compete.”
The measure currently has a small window of opportunity in the Senate’s summer agenda because Reid would like to clear the war spending bill and a fiscal 2010 Homeland Security spending bill before the end of next week.