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U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) says he is working to “restore” with Democrat Senator Mark Warner Congress’s constitutional trade responsibilities and relieve American consumers of the burdens caused by the Trump administration’s unilateral imposition of sweeping taxes on imported steel and aluminum.
The bipartisan Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act builds on bipartisan legislation previously introduced by Senators Toomey and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) last year.
“Tariffs on steel and aluminum imported into the United States are taxes paid by American consumers. The imposition of these taxes, under the false pretense of national security (Section 232), is weakening our economy, threatening American jobs, and eroding our credibility with other nations. I’ve seen, first-hand, the damage these taxes are causing across Pennsylvania,” said Senator Toomey. “Over recent decades, Congress has ceded its constitutional responsibility to establish tariffs to the executive branch. This measure reasserts Congress’s responsibility in determining whether or not to impose national security based tariffs. I urge all of my colleagues to join this bipartisan effort.”
“We need to be tough on China’s unfair and illegal trade practices. But we need to work with our allies to do it. President Trump has strained our relationships with key allies and partners by abusing the authority that Congress granted him and stretching the concept of ‘national security’ beyond credulity,” said Senator Warner. “Virginia consumers and industries like craft beer and agriculture are hurting because of the President’s steel and aluminum tariffs. This bill would roll them back.”
In addition to Senators Toomey and Warner, the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act is co-led by Senators Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
“Tariffs are tax increases on American workers and families,” said Senator Sasse. “Yes, we have to get tough on China and others, but protectionism is weak – not strong. The false pretense of ‘national security’ shouldn’t drive a unilateral trade agenda. The Constitution puts trade and tariff policy in Congress’ hands. These tariffs are a real gut-punch to family budgets so it makes sense that Congress – the lawmakers who can be easily hired and fired by the American people – should debate them.”
“If there is a legitimate national security case to be made for certain tariffs, it should be able to withstand Congressional scrutiny,” Senator Hassan said. “Close allies and trading partners like Canada and the EU do not threaten our national security, and President Trump’s national-security justification for steel and aluminum tariffs is undermining our global interests while hurting businesses and consumers in New Hampshire and across the country. This commonsense, bipartisan bill will help restore a necessary oversight role for Congress over these major economic decisions.”
Additional Senate cosponsors include Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Angus King (I-Maine), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
In the House, a companion version of the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act has been introduced by Congressmen Mike Gallagher (R-Wis. 8th) and Ron Kind (D- Wis. 3rd).
The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act requires the president to secure approval from Congress before he takes trade actions (tariffs, quotas, etc.) under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Congress then has 60 days to review the president’s proposal, which would be guaranteed expedited consideration and an up-or-down vote in the House and Senate. The bill also requires Congress to approve any Section 232 actions imposed within the last four years, including the tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.
The updated legislation also includes provisions designed to restore national security intent to the use of Section 232. The bill incorporates a definition of national security into the statute and requires the Department of Defense to conduct future Section 232 investigations. Currently, the Department of Commerce makes Section 232 determinations and defines national security on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, the bill requires the International Trade Commission (ITC) to report to Congress on the downstream impact of recent and future Section 232 actions. It also mandates that the ITC administer product-wide exclusions for any future Section 232 actions.