Business groups urge senators to pass bill to rein in Trump on tariffs

Business groups urge senators to pass bill to rein in Trump on tariffs
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A diverse mix of U.S. business groups on Tuesday called on senators to support legislation that would step up congressional oversight of President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE's tariffs plans.

The 273 national, state and local organizations expressed support for legislation spearheaded by Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer MORE (R-Tenn.) that would require the president to submit to Congress tariff proposals that fall under Section 232, which covers concerns about national security threats.

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"The U.S. business and agriculture communities are deeply concerned that the president’s unrestricted use of section 232 to impose tariffs may not be in the national interest," the groups write in the letter.

"It is now also increasingly clear that the way the steel and aluminum tariffs have been used will result in retaliatory tariffs from our largest trading partners and closest allies, and that retaliation will have serious negative economic impacts on the United States," the letter says. 

The 51 national trade groups, which range from automakers to footwear to beer and toys, and 222 state and local chambers note in the letter that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to regulate trade and levy taxes, including tariffs.

"The current circumstances highlight the need for Congress to ensure that the authority will be used, as intended by the Congress, in the overall national interest," the letter says.

In March, Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum coming into the United States.

He has called for an investigation into whether a 25 percent tariff on auto and auto parts imports is needed for national security purposes.

Approximately $350 billion of auto imports would be affected if the Commerce Department determines that those imports are a national security threat.

On Tuesday at the White House, Trump defended his tariffs plan, saying that his moves are bringing other countries to the negotiating table.

“Without tariffs, you would never do that,” he said.

But most nations being hit with the tariffs are retaliating against the U.S., arguing that Trump is employing the rarely used national security provision without justification. 

By the first week of July there are expected to be upward of $75 billion worth of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports heading to Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Meanwhile, as support gathers for the tariff bill Capitol Hill, Corker has filed an amendment to the Senate's farm bill that would require congressional approval if Trump wants to impose tariffs under the national security provisions.

It's unclear so far whether the Senate will vote on Corker's amendment.

Republicans recently blocked a similar proposal, backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, during consideration of an annual defense policy bill.

“This legislation is broadly supported by people on both sides of the aisle with a wide range of ideology, and I thank the many organizations that have joined our effort over the past month,” Corker said in a statement after the letter's release. 

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (R-Pa.), who also has clashed with Trump over tariffs, said that "it’s a bad idea for the administration to claim 'national security' as a pretext to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from our closest allies."

Toomey, who has teamed up with Corker on the tariffs measure, added that "the Senate should act in order to ensure Americans can keep buying affordable products and selling our goods abroad.”

Separately, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks MORE (R-Ohio) said on Tuesday that he's calling for a hearing and a vote on legislation that would change the national security provisions.

"I think we should have a markup of legislation that narrows the scope of 232 to what I think is the original intent," Portman said. "We talked about this last week in the hearing ... and I got some answers from [Ross] on the record that I think are consistent with a markup of a tighter 232. I think its too broad right now."