In remarks on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Senator Bob Corker challenged the Senate to 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. Excerpts of the senator’s remarks follow.
“I rise today to talk about the abuse of authority that’s taking place with the administration’s use of Section 232 of the [Trade Expansion Act of 1962] to implement taxes on the American people,” said Senator Corker. “Let me say this one more time.
The president and the administration [are] abusing Section 232 of the [Trade Expansion Act of 1962] – has decided on its own accord – to tax the American people.
“This is Congress’ responsibility [It is] Congress’ responsibility to generate tariffs or deal with taxes.
“Today I wrote a letter to Secretary Ross, our Secretary of Commerce, because it’s my understanding – and he actually today, I guess, in a hearing with the finance committee said – there were 22,506 requests from companies here in the United States asking for exclusions. My question to Secretary Ross is on what basis is he going to be granting these exclusions? Are they going to be friends of the administration that get exclusions? Are they going to deny exclusions to opponents of the administration? Or are they going to use a, quote, national security reason, if you will, to grant exclusions?
“I just want to say, again, I think this is our responsibility. I realize that when additional tariffs go in place in July, when these other countries retaliate, which is their plan on July 1, my guess is that this issue may become more ripe for action.”
“This issue is going to wreak havoc on our country. It already is wreaking havoc on our relationships with friends that have been with us for many, many years in defense – that have come to our aid, we’ve come to their aid. We’ve had alliances, I challenge the Senate to take action on this. There’s a [bill] that’s broadly supported by people on both sides of the aisle with a wide range of ideology that would say if we’re going to invoke 232, a national security section, that we would vote on that. My sense is that as this moves along people are going to want to vote on that, and I look forward to that day occurring.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Senator Corker wrote to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to express deep concern about the implementation of steel and aluminum tariffs recently imposed by the president under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and sought assurances that the Department of Commerce will make exclusion decisions free of political interference or persuasion. Full text of the letter is available here.
Senator Corker is the author of bipartisan legislation that would 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. The bill has attracted a wide range of support and is cosponsored by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Johnson (R-Wi.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Az.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ben Sasse (R-Ne.), and Jerry Moran (R-Ks.). Last week, Senator Corker filed his legislation as an amendment to the NDAA. His request for an up-or-down vote was blocked by Senate leadership.