Free Trade

Trump's Tariff Powers Need Limits. Congressional Democrats Just Introduced a Bill To Set Some.

"Working families should not have to pay the price for the president's reckless use of this tariff authority," says Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat.


President Donald Trump's threat to slap tariffs on Mexican imports didn't become reality, but it might have been enough to spur Congress into reclaiming some authority over trade.

A bill introduced this week by Sens. Tom Carper (D–Del.) and Tim Kaine (D–Va.), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D–Fla.) would place new limitations on two laws that currently allow presidents to unilaterally impose tariffs for supposedly "national security" purposes.

The legislation targets Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962—which Trump invoked last year to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports under thinly justified national security grounds—and to tariffs imposed under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which Trump was intending to use against Mexico last month before backing down. Under the bill, presidents would retain the power to impose tariffs for national security reasons, but those tariffs would automatically lift after 120 days unless they receive congressional approval.

Lawmakers backing the bill say the effort is motivated by ongoing evidence that Americans are paying the price for Trump's tariffs, and by the administration's unprecedented threat against Mexican trade last month.

"Working families should not have to pay the price for the president's reckless use of this tariff authority," Murphy said in a statement. "The time has come for Congress to reclaim its constitutional authority over trade."

In Florida alone, consumers have paid about $600 million in higher costs due to tariffs, Murphy said, citing data from Tariffs Hurt The Heartland, a national pro-trade group that has been tracking the consequences of Trump's trade war. Nationally, the group estimates that tariffs have cost American consumers and businesses more than $27 billion.

Business and retail groups have lined up behind the legislation.

"At a time when American businesses and consumers are facing unprecedented tariffs imposed unilaterally, it's time to reexamine the appropriate balance on trade policy between Congress and the executive branch," said David French, vice president for government relations at the National Retail Association, in a statement.

The bill could be an important check against the White House's ongoing threats to hit imported cars and car parts with tariffs. The Commerce Department has provided the president with a framework for using Section 232 tariffs—by stretching the definition of "national security" to ridiculous lengths. Trump has so far declined to take action. Also noteworthy is Trump's seemingly out-of-nowhere announcement Wednesday that he could consider tariffs against Vietnamese imports.

The bill also provides an interesting political test for congressional Democrats, who have so far been content to criticize Trump's trade war without taking substantial action to stop it. Democrats on the campaign trail have also stepped up their criticisms of Trump's trade policies, but a recent survey by The Atlantic found that only one candidate (John Delaney) in the 25-person field favored getting America back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a good reminder that the political left remains as skeptical of trade as much of the Trumpian right.

Republicans in Congress have so far avoided a direct showdown with Trump over tariffs, though Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) did convince the administration to lift its steel and aluminum tariffs on imported metals from Canada and Mexico. Other Senate Republicans have been sharply critical of Trump's tariffs, and a small group nearly revolted over last month's showdown with Mexico, which would have disrupted more than $670 billion in annual cross-border trade between the two nations

The new proposal joins a small pile of other bills making similar promises to rescind presidential tariff authority. Sooner or later, maybe Congress will finally get around to voting on a few of them.

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  1. Democrats wanting lower taxes?

    How will they pay for all the free shit they are offering?

    1. Income tariffs. their preferred method.

  2. The best legacy Trump could leave would be fewer presidential powers.

    1. Exactly. I love that the Democrat creatures in congress are now rethinking about how much power to delegate to the executive branch.

      I’m sure it’s nothing to do with partisanship and will continue if a D wins the election in 2020….

      1. Presidential power is bad.
        We must give all previous powers to the premier, or chairman. For freedom.
        Much better that way.

      2. I love that the Democrat creatures in congress are now rethinking about how much power to delegate to the executive branch.

        We had this same exact conversation 8 years ago with the parties reversed and nothing changed.

    2. Yeah except this won’t pass his veto if it does get through the Senate. And I am sure there are Dems who don’t want this to pass because they envision a Dem president using tariffs on foreign oil to combat climate change for national security purposes of course.

  3. Oh, FFS… you mean there’s more than one David French?

    1. >>>National Retail Association

      also 2A right to bear Mastercard

      1. Nope, Mastercard is allowed to unperson you if the progressives tell them to.

  4. I love that TPP is held up as some great idea to fix trade.

  5. Every time I visit this site these days, I leave feeling like I need a long and very thorough shower.

    1. Because you jizzed in your pants?

  6. In this case, yes, I agree Trump abused an authority that was never intended for this purpose. But it’s small potatoes compared to the vast panoply of discretion Congress has granted the administration to set tariffs and trade limits by enacting broad statutory trade restrictions and then allowing bits and pieces of them to be temporarily lifted administratively. Those are where the real action is, and if Congress wants to take some real responsibility they need to look there.

  7. Do they expect Trump to sign this law?

    Does anyone reasonable expect the Democrats to propose this law again when a Democrat is in the White House?

    We’d probably need to go full retard before we started taking these ridiculous spectacles seriously.

    1. Boehm and the Lefties need to get all excited about the Democrat controlled House forwarding bills that have almsot zero chance of being passed by the Senate or signed by Trump.

      Boehm and his propagandists have TDS that they might actually reign in government just to spite Trump.

      Of course, Lefties simply think that they can reinstate these Presidential powers if their guy gets into office. Since that is never happening again, it is funny.

    2. Sort of like Repubs and Obamacare repeal?

      Anyway, I’m not sure how a libertarian could be against an attempt to reign in Presidential authority on one of Congress’ enumerated powers. It would be interesting to me, if for no other to get everyone on the record on this one.

      1. If for no other reason than to…

      2. REIN! The word is “rein”, dammit. “Reign” means to rule. To restrain something is to “rein it in”. Sorry, but this is one of my pet peeves, right up there with people who hoard barbarians.

    3. I’d say the bill has three chances of actually passing: slim, fat and none. But the fact that anyone is even talking about limiting Presidential overreach cheers me up just a tiny bit.

  8. Boehm needs to do another article on the Dow Jones.

    It was nearly at the all time high Friday June 29, 2019

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