June 06, 2018

Senators Introduce Legislation to Require Congressional Approval of National Security-Designated Tariffs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)  today introduced legislation to require congressional approval of tariffs designated under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

The bill requires the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232. For a 60-day period following submission, legislation to approve the proposal will qualify for expedited consideration, guaranteeing the opportunity for debate and a vote. The requirement would apply to all Section 232 actions moving forward, as well as those taken within the past two years.

“While we all agree on the need to ensure the international trade system is fair for American workers, companies and consumers, unfortunately, the administration is abusing the Section 232 authority delegated to the president by Congress,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Making claims regarding national security to justify what is inherently an economic question not only harms the very people we all want to help and impairs relations with our allies but also could invite our competitors to retaliate. If the president truly believes invoking Section 232 is necessary to protect the United States from a genuine threat, he should make the case to Congress and to the American people and do the hard work necessary to secure congressional approval.”

“For North Dakota farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers, exporting is critical, but the administration’s wrongheaded trade policies are putting their livelihoods in jeopardy,” said Heitkamp. “Our bipartisan bill would make sure Congress has a key oversight role if a president imposes tariffs under the claim of national security reasons. Right now, the president is implementing tariffs on our allies, like Canada, Mexico, and the EU – countries that don’t pose national security threats but which are critical trading partners for North Dakota. The implications of these tariffs are significant – on our own producers and businesses because of retaliatory tariffs we’re now seeing and on our relationships with our allies who could use the same claims of national security to impose tariffs on us. Huge economic policy decisions like tariffs shouldn’t be taken lightly, and Congress should serve as a needed check to make sure we aren’t losing out in the end.”

“Tariffs are taxes on American consumers. They hurt American workers, families, and employers. Imposing them under the false pretense of ‘national security’ weakens our economy, our credibility with other nations, and invites retaliation,” said Toomey. “The decision to use these taxes should not be taken lightly or unilaterally. By passing this legislation, Congress can reassert its constitutional responsibility (Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 1 and 3) on trade and ensure Americans can keep buying affordable products and keep selling our goods abroad. I hope my Democratic and Republican colleagues join this common-sense effort.”

“While I believe that we should hold China accountable for unfair trade practices and I strongly support strong trade enforcement rules that protect American workers, the President should not be relying on an obscure provision of a trade law intended to uphold national security in order to impose tariffs on our allies. Instead, he should focus on building international coalitions to hold bad actors accountable and protect American workers,” said Warner.

“Tariffs are the constitutional responsibility of Congress. If the president thinks that tariffs are necessary for national security reasons, our bill requires Congress to approve that decision within 60 days,” said Alexander. “In general, these kinds of tariffs are a big mistake, and using national security as an excuse is a bigger mistake. There is no state that is likely to be more damaged by tariffs on aluminum and steel than Tennessee, because in many ways we are the nation’s number one auto state. I have urged President Trump instead to focus on reciprocity—do for our country what our country does for you—instead of imposing tariffs, which are basically higher taxes on American consumers.”

“74 years ago today, American and Canadian troops landed on the beaches of Normandy together. D-Day was one of many moments when our two nations have stood side by side. For this administration to now pretend that trading with Canada is a threat to our national security is an insult to our shared history, our veterans, and our allies around the world, not to mention a shot fired at our own economy,” said Schatz. “Clearly, we need a bill to stop the abuse our trade laws by the executive branch, and that’s what this legislation does. It requires the president to first seek approval from Congress before imposing global tariffs for national security reasons.”

“For too long Congress has ceded important policymaking authority to the executive branch on a wide range of issues,” said Johnson. “It’s time for Congress to reclaim its constitutional authorities on tariffs to ensure we don’t undermine the significant economic progress we have made over the last 18 months.”

“Ensuring American businesses, consumers, and workers get a fair deal when it comes to trade is crucial – there’s no doubt that we need to crack down on China for its efforts to prey on American technology. But misusing Section 232 to levy tariffs on our allies is risky and will hurt American consumers. This legislation makes it clear that to use Section 232, there must be a proven risk to our national security. I urge the Senate to take up this legislation immediately and maintain the longstanding Congressional oversight on trade negotiations,” said Van Hollen.

“Congress has ceded far too much law making power to the Executive branch including the power to unilaterally raise tariffs,” said Lee. “While our trade agreements do need reform, that reform should be accomplished with congressional approval, not through unilateral executive action that could harm the economy.”

“The staggering negative impact of the administration’s proposed tariffs is already being felt by workers and businesses across the country,” said Flake. “Congress ought to assert leadership in this situation and take away the matches the president seems intent on using to ignite a dangerous trade war. I encourage my colleagues to promptly pass this legislation and push back against ill-conceived protectionist measures.”

“I support President Trump’s efforts to confront the unfair trade practices of countries like China that threaten our economy and our national security,” said Isakson. “However, new taxes levied against our national security allies like Europe, Japan, and Canada deserve a full debate in Congress. American manufacturing is expanding at its fastest pace since 2004, but I’m hearing from too many Georgia manufacturers who fear that overly broad tariffs will slam the brakes on the pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda that Congress and the president have been fighting for. Trade wars do not solve the problems they are intended to address, but inevitably create more trouble. It is my hope that by passing this legislation, Congress will be able to work more closely with the administration to address unfair trade policies with a targeted approach that does not harm American workers and consumers.”

A copy of the legislation is available online here.


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