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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Sanford, Cooper Introduce Bill Giving Congress More Trade Authority

Sep 26, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Representatives Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Jim Cooper (D-TN) introduced the Promoting Responsible and Free Trade Act. This legislation would give Congress a more proactive role in implementing trade policy concerning tariffs.

Currently, under Sections 201, 301, and 232, the president has the unilateral authority to impose a tariff. Before a tariff may be imposed, the Commerce Department, U.S. Trade Representative, or International Trade Commission must issue a report on the proposed action’s effects and justification. The president still has the right to impose a tariff without any congressional oversight or approval. This bill would allow Congress to approve or deny any potential tariffs before going to the president’s desk. If approved, the president would still have final sign off; if denied, the president would no longer need to weigh in.

“Although the power to impose tariffs is one our Constitution explicitly grants to Congress, modern history is filled with examples of the executive branch imposing tariffs without Congress’s approval...or even a congressional debate,”said Rep. Sanford. “Our Founding Fathers were deliberate in setting up a system of checks and balances, and regardless of your views on the global trading system, the underlying balance of powers should be respected.  Given recent events, I think Congress needs to reclaim its seat at the table, and this bill is a simple and effective way to give Congress a more proactive role in trade policy.”

“Our bipartisan bill gives Congress the authority to weigh in on tariffs before they are implemented,” said Rep. Cooper. “No President should have unlimited powers, especially when those powers are hurting innocent farmers and businesses.”

The Promoting Responsible and Free Trade Act authorizes Congress to review and approve or disapprove executive branch reports on any tariffs before they are imposed by the president.

  • Section 201: The ITC will be required to send its report to Congress for a maximum review period of 60 days. Congress will be given the power to pass a joint resolution of disapproval within the 60-day window to stop the tariff’s implementation.
  • Section 301: The USTR will be required to send its report to Congress for a maximum review period of 60 days. Congress will be given the power to pass a joint resolution of disapproval within the 60-day window to stop the tariff from being implemented.
  • Section 232: The Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce will be required to send a report that reviews any national security implications and tariff recommendations to Congress for approval.
    • The Department of Defense will be required to submit its report on national security implications to the president.
    • If the president determines a tariff is necessary, the Department of Commerce would be required to send a report to Congress on tariff-level recommendations.
    • Congress will have a maximum of 60 days to approve the tariff report. If approved, the tariff report will go to the president for final approval and implementation.
    • There is a 2-year retroactivity period for Section 232 tariffs due to national security implications. This allows Congress to review any existing Section 232 tariffs.

The text of the bill can be viewed here.