Trade Cases

Bills to Limit Trump's Use of Section 232 Get Bipartisan Support

Written by Sandy Williams

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is onboard with an effort to restrict President Trump’s ability to use national security as a reason to impose tariffs. Grassley reportedly has told his staff to work with Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to create legislation that would garner enough Senate support to override a veto by the president.

Two bills have already been introduced to Congress that would curtail presidential authority under Section 232.

The Trade Security Act of 2019, re-introduced by Portman in February, allows Congress to pass a joint resolution of disapproval on tariffs imposed by the president on perceived import threats to national security. It would also call on the Pentagon to conduct national security investigations into the impact of any imports targeted by the president. Commerce would consult with the Pentagon and USTR for recommendations to address any threats. The act would apply to new tariffs only.

The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, introduced by Toomey, would require Congress to approve any Section 232 adjustment to imports and would restrict national security probes to “goods with applications in military equipment, energy resources, and/or critical infrastructure.” The Toomey bill would allow Congress to review and repeal current Section 232 restrictions.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), who sponsored similar bills in the House, suggested that the Portman bill would likely have more congressional support.

On Wednesday, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, backed by Charles Koch, launched a digital ad campaign to urge Republicans and Democrats to support legislation to limit Trump’s authority to impose new tariffs.

“Tariffs are destructive taxes on American producers and consumers. They threaten to undermine the economic growth the Trump administration has encouraged through tax reform and removing regulatory burdens,” said Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips.

“Congress should hold an up-or-down vote before tariffs proposed by a president can take effect…. We strongly encourage these senators and representatives to get on board and cosponsor this bipartisan legislation. This is a top trade priority for our organization and we’ll continue to press Congress to make it a reality.”

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