President Donald Trump has spent the last year igniting trade wars with several countries, including many US allies and while he seems to love this path, Republican lawmakers are working to implement legislation that would move the tariff powers to Capitol Hill instead.
GOP Senators Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio have both introduced bills this year that are looking to reform a portion of the Trade Expansion Act. The portion in question, Section 232, lets the president impose tariffs unilaterally using the basis of national security as a cause, giving the president a LOT of power and leeway.
Republican lawmakers pushed back hard against Trump recently as he used tariff threats against Mexico, telling them they needed to take steps to cut off the steady stream of migrants traveling to the southern border. He has also been met with backlash for using the same tactic and policy on steel and aluminum imports.
Senator Portman said,
“Misusing this trade tool not only hurts our exports and our manufacturers, but also our consumers, and I’m hopeful the Senate Finance Committee takes action on this legislation.”-Senator Rob Portman
Both Toomey’s and Portman’s acts, the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act and Portman’s Trade Security Act, respectively, have garnered support from both sides of the aisle as they ultimately have one goal in mind: to try to extinguish some of the President’s trade power.
Toomey’s plan would require congressional approval in order for a president to declare an import a national security threat. The tougher plan of the two acts, Toomey’s would also be retroactive and would reach back to cover all presidential orders within four years before its passage.
Portman’s bill would allow congressional committees the option to issue a joint resolution of disapproval to any president’s tariff actions but while some say this act could face less opposition, critics fear it is too lenient and lacks necessary binding language.
A Republican aide said, “The problem is that there’s no guarantee that that [Portman’s] bill would get time on the floor in the Senate or the House… The Toomey legislation guarantees a vote.”
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley is working toward a plan that would compromise the competing bills. He went on record recently to talk about working on those bills but was hesitant to criticize President Trump, saying, “This is not about Trump… It’s about the balancing of power.” In a call to reporters, though, Grassley did have this statement:
“It adds up to something pretty simple: Congress has delegated too much authority to the president of the United States.”-Senator Chuck Grassley
Economists warn against the President’s tendency to use protectionist policies, saying it disrupts trade and really acts to simply tax American businesses and consumers. This puts some Republican lawmakers in triky positions. Donald Moynihan, from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University had this insight on the situation:
“Trump is unusual in his fondness for tariffs as a bargaining chip, and his comfort in using emergency powers to justify it… We have gotten to a point where some Republican members of the Senate have lost trust in Trump when it comes to tariffs.”-Donald Moynihan, from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University
The president continues to push the issue, saying that the practices will ultimately be a benefit to America, insisting that the pain will be worth it in the form of job creation, something he has been TRYING to see make its way from the campaign trail of 2016 to the reality of now.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere was asked about the reform bills recently and said, “The President’s tariffs have not come anywhere close to tanking this unprecedented level of economic and job growth but have instead brought our allies and adversaries to the table all for the benefit of the American worker.”