Legislation Requires Congressional Approval of National Security-Designated Tariffs

June 11, 2018

Legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a bipartisan group of senators to require congressional approval of tariffs designated under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 is attracting a wide range of support.

The legislation, cosponsored by Senators 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), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), 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.

Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “The U.S. business and agriculture community is profoundly concerned about how newly imposed tariffs – and the inevitable foreign retaliation arriving in the next few weeks – will lead to lost American jobs. This emerging trade war endangers the remarkable economic progress we’ve seen in the past year. The constitutional authority of the Congress to ‘regulate foreign trade’ and its oversight of tariff policy is unambiguous. This modest proposal to clarify congressional prerogatives is welcome and long overdue.”

David French, senior vice president for government relations, National Retail Federation: “The Constitution is clear: Congress has the authority to regulate commerce and oversee trade. It’s time for Congress to exert its authority and play a leading role in mitigating escalating trade tensions with our strongest allies. There needs to be a more appropriate balance on trade policy between Congress and the executive branch, and we applaud Senators Corker and Toomey for working to achieve that. With the threat of a global trade war, Congress must step in before the U.S. economy suffers, American jobs are lost and families are forced to pay more for everyday products.”

Philip Ellender, president of government and public affairs, Koch Industries: “In many respects, America has never been as strong as today, in large part thanks to robust tax and regulatory reforms undertaken by Congress and the administration. To sustain the momentum, Koch supports this bipartisan legislation, which helps restore Congress’ constitutional authority on matters of trade, including any tariffs proposed on the grounds of national security. Equal to its role under the Trade Promotion Authority, it is imperative that lawmakers reassert their powers on these important trade decisions. The country is at its best when all can succeed through policies that enable rather than stifle the voluntary, free and fair exchange of goods and services. This happens when trade is expanded, new markets are opened, and costs are subsequently lowered for consumers. Koch champions policies that continue to advance the robust, pro-growth economic agenda championed by Congress and the administration, and we oppose those which impose barriers to trade, ultimately hurting individuals, businesses, and communities.”

Cal Dooley, president and CEO, American Chemistry Council: “ACC and our members applaud the swift action taken by Sen. Corker and fellow Senate leaders today to bring more oversight to tariff actions that have the potential to derail U.S. manufacturing and hurt our economy. Over the past decade, the U.S. chemicals sector has gone from one of the least competitive in the world to one of the world’s lowest-cost producers of chemicals, with more than $194 billion in announced new investments. The president’s unilateral decisions on trade over the past several weeks have inadvertently put our industry’s renaissance in jeopardy. According to new ACC analysis, retaliation caused by the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs alone would impact more than $3.2 billion of U.S. chemicals exports. Tariffs on autos and auto parts would invite more damaging retaliation and drive up the cost to make vehicles here in America, further eroding the competitiveness of the U.S. chemical manufacturing sector, one of the auto industry’s biggest suppliers. If done right, U.S. trade policy has the potential to create prosperity and economic growth for all. Levying tariffs and inciting retaliation from our most important trading partners is not the vision for prosperity that a majority of Americans and American businesses share. We encourage congress and the president to use this opportunity to work together to pursue a more constructive, multilateral approach to trade negotiations that representatives from all sides can support.”

Brent Gardner, chief government affairs officer, Americans for Prosperity; Nathan Nascimento, executive vice president, Freedom Partners; David Velazquez, executive director, The LIBRE Initiative: “Trade is an essential part of the U.S. economy. It leads to economic growth, job creation, higher wages, more consumer choice, and more affordable prices. Trade lifts people out of poverty and improves lives. By contrast, trade barriers like tariffs harm workers, consumers, and companies. Thus, as staunch advocates for U.S. economic prosperity and job creation, we are deeply concerned about recently implemented or announced tariffs on imported goods. These developments were quickly followed by announcements from our trade partners, including some of America’s closest allies, of retaliatory tariffs. Trade barriers make us poorer. Tariffs are a tax on American consumers, workers and businesses and undermine economic growth. They inflict the most pain on those who can afford it the least, by making everyday goods more expensive. They raise costs for U.S. exports which rely on imports in production, which makes them less competitive. And, of course, there are the costs from retaliatory tariffs imposed by our trade partners. Because there is so much at stake in our trade policies, it is vital for Congress to play a robust role to closely scrutinize new tariffs. Your legislation would help ensure an appropriate balance between the legislative and executive branches when considering new trade barriers. Specifically, the legislation would ensure that any new trade barriers, such as tariffs, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 are subject to an expedited up-or-down vote by Congress before they can take effect. It would also give Congress an opportunity to weigh in on any tariffs imposed over the last two years. We believe this is a common-sense approach to ensure a healthy balance between branches of the federal government, by reverting to Congress some of the authority it previously delegated to the executive branch. Trade between countries is voluntary and mutually beneficial to both parties. It is a win-win. Trade is vitally important for preserving – and improving – the standard of living for all Americans. We strongly support your efforts and encourage all Senators to support this legislation.”

Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association: “The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) supports the common-sense amendment to be introduced by Senators Corker and Toomey to require congressional approval before the president can adjust imports that are deemed to threaten our nation's security. This amendment does not limit the president's authority to initiate investigations or conduct free trade. If this amendment comes to a vote during the debate of the National Defense Authorization Act, MEMA urges a vote in favor of the amendment. MEMA represents the motor vehicle supplier industry, the largest sector of manufacturing jobs in the United States, directly employing over 871,000 Americans. Motor vehicle parts manufacturing employment in the U.S. is up 19 percent in the last five years. This growth in jobs has been possible because motor vehicle parts suppliers operate in an integrated, complex global supply chain. Access to worldwide markets is critical for the motor vehicle parts industry to remain competitive. Open and reciprocal trade is essential to the success of motor vehicle parts suppliers and the jobs we create in the United States. This industry has questioned and vocally opposed the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and the initiation of an investigation into automobiles and motor vehicle parts under the guise of national security. This amendment does not impede our national security or the economic security of our country.”

Here for America: “We support the measure introduced today by Senator Corker to require Congressional approval prior to the imposition of tariffs or other restrictions on imports for national security reasons. The current steel and aluminum tariffs and the recent initiation of a Section 232 investigation on automobiles and automobile parts imports demonstrates the need for such oversight. No auto industry voices have suggested this sector is in the midst of a national security crisis or asked for this protection. In fact, the US auto industry today is thriving with sales, production, and exports at near all-time highs. We encourage Congress and the President to work together on policies that will ensure the U.S. auto industry remains strong, competitive and innovative. The future growth and prosperity of our industry and the American jobs it generates depend on it.”

Cody Lusk, president and CEO, American International Automobile Dealers Association: “The Trump administration’s demonstrated willingness to use section 232 to declare certain industries, including steel, aluminum, and autos, threats to national security, and punish them with harsh tariffs, is an actual threat to the American economy. Senator Corker has introduced an amendment that reclaims Congress’ constitutional authority to regulate foreign trade through the section 232 process. The amendment could save hundreds of thousands of American jobs, including 570,000 auto retail jobs, being threatened by tariffs.”

Dennis Slater, president, Association of Equipment Manufacturers: “We applaud this effort by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators to strengthen our nation’s system of checks and balances, especially as it relates to this administration’s decision to place harmful tariffs on steel and aluminum. We fully believe in Congress’ authority to ‘regulate foreign trade’ and urge other members of the U.S. Senate to support this bipartisan bill. As we’ve said before, starting a trade war with our nation’s largest trading partners and allies disrupts our entire global trading system and could jeopardize many of the 1.3 million good-paying jobs our industry supports. These harmful tariffs directly contribute to higher steel prices and increase costs for agriculture and construction machinery, making it very difficult for our industry to continue generating roughly $159 billion to the U.S. economy each year.”

Hun Quach, vice president of international trade, Retail Industry Leaders Association: “We applaud Senators Corker, Heitkamp, Alexander, Warner, Toomey and Schatz’s efforts to steer the trade agenda in the right direction. This amendment is a good start. A three-front trade war will lead to higher prices and greater uncertainty for American businesses and consumers. It is time for Congress to recognize that broadly implemented tariffs on everyday essentials will only harm American families.”

Matt Priest, president and CEO, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America: “The U.S. footwear industry is deeply concerned that the new tariffs have already brought uncertainty for our companies, harm to U.S. consumers, and retaliation from some our nation’s most important trading partners. Since Congress has the constitutional responsibility to oversee our nation’s trade policy, it remains imperative that Congress maintains an active role in these trade decisions. We appreciate Senator Corker and a bipartisan group of Senators for taking the lead to ensure we have a process in place that reflects the central role of Congress in trade policy and gives American businesses some much-needed economic certainty.”

National Taxpayers Union: “Senator Corker’s amendment, S. 3013, would amend the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to require Congressional approval before the President adjusts imports that are determined to threaten to impair national security. Under this amendment, any potential tariffs to be applied under Section 232 would be submitted to Congress and taken up via an expedited procedure to ensure timely consideration. In addition, the amendment includes a two-year reach-back mechanism to capture and harmonize recent trade decisions with this improved approach. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to impose tariffs and regulate foreign commerce. This is an essential power that Congress should reclaim and use to prevent damaging trade policies that could hurt both our economy and consumers.”

Steve Caldeira, president and CEO, Household & Commercial Products Association: “HCPA thanks Senator Corker (R-TN) for his leadership in introducing S.3013 and strongly urges other members of the U.S. Senate to support this bipartisan and much-needed measure. These tariffs are a debilitating tax on the manufacturers who use aluminum and steel to make and package their consumer and commercial products. Combined across industries, this tax will potentially cost American manufacturers billions of dollars, lead to the loss of jobs and raise the prices of the integral, everyday products millions of consumers and workers rely on every day.”

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