Oct 05 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), today introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent presidential abuse of “national security” tariffs by reinstating congressional authority over trade. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) are original cosponsors on the legislation.
The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act would make any presidentially-proposed tariffs or quotas applied for national security purposes (via Section 232 authority) subject to review and approval by Congress prior to going into effect. Prior administrations have unilaterally abused Section 232 tariffs to protect favored industries, which has resulted in economic disruption, damage to U.S. relationships with our allies, and harmful retaliatory tariffs on American farmers and manufacturers.
“For too long, Congress has allowed presidents to unilaterally impose tariffs by invoking spurious claims of ‘national security’ – regardless of whether or not the import in question poses any genuine threat to national defense. These wrongfully-imposed tariffs have increased costs for American consumers, substantially burdened domestic manufacturers, and have undermined our relationships with our allies. Through the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, we can restore Congress’ authority by once again requiring tariffs imposed for so-called ‘national security’ purposes to be approved by Congress, including those previously enacted on steel and aluminum in 2018,” said Senator Toomey.
“As our economy continues to recover from the economic crisis, we must ensure that Congress has a say in any future actions that could restrict trade or impose consequential changes,” said Senator Warner. “This legislation, which we introduced under the last administration, will help prevent any future president from abusing national security authorities to impose unilateral tariffs. It will also help guarantee that any efforts to crack down on unfair or illegal trade practices are strategic, and done in concert with our allies.”
Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, Congress conditionally delegated certain tariff and quota authority to the executive branch in the event an import is a threat to national security. Historically, Section 232 investigations have been rare and have infrequently resulted in imposition of tariffs – prior to 2018, a president last took action under Section 232 in 1986.
However, the previous Administration used Section 232 widely, unilaterally imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum and conducting investigations into six additional products. In the 60-year history of the Section 232, approximately one-fourth of investigations have occurred in only the last four years.
To prevent future misuse of Section 232 authority, the Senators’ bill would require Congressional approval in the event the executive branch chooses to adjust import levels. It would also restore the national security intent to the statute, by defining the term “national security” to include articles specifically related to military equipment, energy resources, and critical infrastructure.
Several outside groups have voiced support for the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, including: National Foreign Trade Council, Tariff Reform Coalition, Business Roundtable, Chamber of Commerce, Retail Industry Leaders Association, National Retail Federation, Autos Drive America, Precision Metalforming Association, Precision Machined Products Association, Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users, Associated Builders and Contractors, Industrial Fasteners Institute, Hands-On Science Partnership, National Tooling & Machining Association, North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, and American Apparel & Footwear Association.
On September 24th, the Biden Administration launched a new Section 232 investigation into the national security impacts of imported Neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets—rare earth magnets—which are used in the production of wind turbines, electric vehicles, and a number of other items.
The bill text is available here.