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January 28, 2019

Dueling Trade Legislation In U.S. Congress

Two weeks ago, Connecting the Dots reported that the White House and some Republicans in Congress plan to push legislation that would give the president line-by-line power to raise tariffs on individual products if foreign trading partners charge higher import taxes. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) introduced that legislation last week, but his bill is not the only trade-related bill on the docket.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers reportedly plans to soon introduce a bill that would reduce the president’s trade powers, including his Section 232 powers. As MSCI members know, the president used those powers last year to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Additionally, the Trump administration is now considering using Section 232 to implement tariffs on imports of cars and car parts. The bill, which has not yet been introduced, would require congressional approval of any tariffs proposed under Section 232 before they could take effect. It also would retroactively require a congressional vote of approval for Section 232 tariffs imposed within the last four years, including those put in place last year on imports of steel and aluminum. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) plan to cosponsor the bill in the Senate while Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) will lead the effort in the House.

Even if lawmakers in both chambers of Congress approve that legislation, President Donald Trump certainly would veto it. The legislation, however, could represent a growing appetite among lawmakers to rein in the president’s trade powers. (For context, Rep. Duffy’s legislation currently has 18 cosponsors.)

Stay tuned to Connecting the Dots for updates about how each piece of legislation progresses.