In remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he hopes Congress will “rise to the occasion” and assert its constitutional authority on trade policy by passing his bipartisan legislation to require congressional approval of tariffs designated under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
Senator Corker said, “The Constitution… gives the United States Congress the authority to deal with revenues and tariffs. From time to time, moments arise in U.S.
history where Congress should assert its authority and play a calming role.
“Today, we had a number of small businesses [here] from Tennessee. [They] are wondering what world they are waking up in as tariffs just seem to be rolling off at the White House, again, with no seeming strategy nor thought, just waking up and putting in place taxes on the American people, changing the relationships that have been built since World War II between our nation and others, in some cases appearing to take place over personal picks that the president may have against an individual or company. That’s not the way the United States has led the world, and we have a responsibility as a Congress over these matters.
“I know the pressure is going to build. I know these other countries are going to retaliate. They have no choice but to retaliate. The citizens they represent would push them, are pushing them, to retaliate. They have no choice.
“We as a body have a responsibility at this time to reclaim our responsibilities as it relates to tariffs and revenues. Allow the president to continue to negotiate, allow him to do so, but when he completes his work, he should bring whatever it is he would like to impose on other countries, especially since he’s using Section 232 in ways that it was never intended, he should bring that to the United States Senate and to the United States House of Representatives, and…we should decide what tariffs should be put in place. I plan to come back and speak on this matter tomorrow. I hope that at some point as pressure builds, as chaos is created in other countries and around the world, as our leadership role in the world continues to take a hit and be challenged, I hope the United States Senate will rise to the occasion. I want to thank those many people on both sides of the aisle that have sponsored legislation to deal with this. I hope the leader of the Senate and the minority leader of the Senate will decide that this is an important issue that we need to take up and that we will take action.”
The legislation, which has attracted a wide range of support, is cosponsored by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hi.), Ron Johnson (R-Wi.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mike Lee (R-Ut.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Az.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ben Sasse (R-Ne.), and Jerry Moran (R-Ks.) and will require the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232. For a 60-day period following submission, legislation to approve the proposal will qualify for expedited consideration, guaranteeing the opportunity for debate and a vote. The requirement would apply to all Section 232 actions moving forward, as well as those taken within the past two years.
Last week, Senator Corker filed his legislation an amendment to the NDAA. His request for an up-or-down vote was blocked by Senate leadership.