Senate

Senators to introduce bill to rein in Trump’s tariff authority

Greg Nash

Senators are planning to introduce legislation as soon as Tuesday to require President Trump to get congressional approval for tariffs implemented for national security purposes. 

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is spearheading the legislation, told reporters that he will roll out the bill as early as Tuesday and wants to try to get it attached to a defense policy bill that the Senate will start work on later this week.

“If a president decided he was going to invoke 232 and declare something a national security threat he would still go through all the processes he goes through now but, in the end, Congress will have to approve it,” Corker said.

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Under the bill, Corker said, a vote on approving tariffs invoked under Section 232 of the trade law could be expedited through Congress. The bill, if signed into law, would also be retroactive going back two years. 

Corker, who is retiring at the end of his term, declined to say who is backing his bill, which he noted could slip to Wednesday morning, but said he had support from senators on both sides of the aisle.

Corker said that he is hoping to add his bill to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill that the Senate is expected to start work on as soon as Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of interest in it for what it’s worth. I would hope that we would be able to add it to NDAA since it’s a national security bill but, you know, doing anything around here is like pushing a major boulder uphill,” he said.

The forthcoming legislation comes as Republicans have expressed increasing frustrations on Trump’s trade policies after the president slapped steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico ending an exemption for the key trading partners.

But getting a vote on an amendment to the NDAA would require Corker to work out a deal with each of his colleagues, including members of leadership who have downplayed the chances that Congress will pass legislation addressing Trump’s tariff actions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that there is “not much” Congress could do legislatively if Trump presses forward with the tariffs.

And Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), McConnell’s No. 2, told reporters on Monday that it was unlikely Congress would pass or Trump would sign legislation clawing back some of his authority on trade.

Asked if he had McConnell’s support, Corker smirked before adding: “I think the majority leader, my guess is, would be very receptive from a policy standpoint. Might be concerned from other standpoints.”

Any legislation would likely ultimately need support from two-thirds of both chambers, enough to overcome a presidential veto.

Corker acknowledged that the White House would likely not be enthusiastic about the bill, but said Congress is “a separate but equal branch.”

Other than Corker, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has introduced broader legislation that would require congressional approval for any tariffs, and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is the latest senator to sign on to that bill, but he noted on Tuesday that it doesn’t yet have support from Democrats.

Tags Bob Corker Canada Donald Trump EU John Cornyn Mexico Mike Lee Mitch McConnell National Defense Authorization Act Pat Toomey Senate Tariffs Trade
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