House lawmakers introduce bill to ensure Congress plays central role in tariff decisions

House lawmakers introduce bill to ensure Congress plays central role in tariff decisions

A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers introduced a measure on Wednesday that would ensure Congress has a seat at the table to examine the validity of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE's tariffs.

Reps. Mark SanfordMark SanfordCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama The Memo: Can the Never Trumpers succeed? MORE (R-S.C.) and Jim CooperJim CooperOvernight Defense: Army now willing to rename bases named after Confederates | Dems demand answers on 'unfathomable' nuke testing discussions | Pentagon confirms death of north African al Qaeda leader Top Democrats demand answers on Trump administration's 'unfathomable' consideration of nuclear testing Taylor Swift slams Trump tweet: 'You have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?' MORE (D-Tenn.) worked on the legislation that would give lawmakers the ability to review and approve or disapprove Executive Branch reports on any tariffs before they are imposed by the president.

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“Although the power to impose tariffs is one our Constitution explicitly grants to Congress, modern history is filled with examples of the executive branch imposing tariffs without Congress’s approval ... or even a congressional debate,” Sanford said.

"Given recent events, I think Congress needs to reclaim its seat at the table, and this bill is a simple and effective way to give Congress a more proactive role in trade policy," he said. 

Under current law, the president has unilateral authority to impose tariffs under Sections 201, 301 and 232.

When tariffs are proposed by the president, the Commerce Department, U.S. Trade Representative or International Trade Commission must issue a report on the effects and justification of the tariffs before they can be imposed.

Even thought the president still has the right to impose a tariff without any congressional oversight or approval, the bill would allow Congress to approve or deny any potential tariffs before going to the president’s desk.

If approved by Congress, the president would still have the final sign off. If denied by Congress, the president would not need to act.

“Our bipartisan bill gives Congress the authority to weigh in on tariffs before they are implemented,” Cooper said.

“No president should have unlimited powers, especially when those powers are hurting innocent farmers and businesses," he said. 

Under Section 201, the ITC will be required to send its report to Congress for a maximum review period of 60 days. Congress will be given the power to pass a joint resolution of disapproval within that time frame to stop the tariff’s imposition.

For Section 301 tariffs — Trump has hit China with tariffs of $250 billion on Chinese goods so far — the USTR will be required to send its report to Congress for a 60-day review period. Congress can then pass a joint resolution of disapproval within the that window to stop the tariffs.

The procedure for Section 232 tariffs, which address national security threats, would require the Defense Department and the Commerce Department to send a report that reviews any national security implications and tariff recommendations to Congress for approval.

Trump has imposed 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which has led to retaliation by close trading partners. 

The Pentagon will be required to submit its report on national security implications to the president.

If the president determines a tariff is necessary, then Commerce would be required to send a report to Congress on tariff-level recommendations.

Congress will have a maximum of 60 days to approve the tariff report. If approved, the tariff report will go to the president for final approval and implementation.

There is a two-year retroactivity period for Section 232 tariffs due to national security implications.

That would allow Congress to review any existing Section 232 tariffs.