Pass Toomey’s Tariff Legislation
No one should doubt that President Donald Trump would misuse his emergency powers to start building a largely useless wall along the southwest border, because he already has misused his authority regarding national security to impose tariffs on an array of imported products.
The Department of Commerce has a negligible role in national security policy, yet Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act allows the president to impose tariffs if the department identifies national security implications.
Trump has used that provision to impose a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and a 25 percent tariff on steel, claiming that over-reliance on foreign metals adversely affects military preparedness — even though then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that is not the case.
Sen. Pat Toomey has introduced the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, which would establish a much more rational protocol for such tariffs. The bill would require the Department of Defense, rather than the Department of Commerce, to assess imported materials’ effect on national security.
And it would require specific congressional approval before a president could invoke national security to justify tariffs.
“Our Defense Department is better equipped to determine threats to national security than our Commerce Department is,” Toomey said. Obviously, he is correct.
A version of the bill also has been introduced in the House. Congress should pass the bill to preclude the use of national security considerations to satisfy domestic political interests.