Doug Jones introduces bipartisan bill to reform process for national security tariffs, increase oversight

Doug Jones opinion

Alabama’s newly elected U.S. Senator, Democrat Doug Jones is hoping to put an end to President Donald Trump‘s ability to impose steep import tariffs.

On Wednesday, Jones, along with his Republican colleagues Ohio-Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and Iowa-Republican U.S. Sen. and Joni Ernst introduced the Trade Security Act, legislation that will reform Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which Trump is using to impose tariffs on imports.

The legislation addresses the Trump Administration’s justification of implementing tariffs on certain imports by citing a national security concern. In order to prevent this scenario moving forward, the bill makes common-sense reforms that require the Department of Defense to justify the national security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and increase congressional oversight of this process.

“We cannot resolve perceived trade imbalances by accusing our allies of being a threat to our national security. If a trading partner is suspected of undermining our national security, that claim needs to be thoroughly investigated by those with relevant expertise in the Department of Defense,” said Jones.

He continued, “Unfortunately, the current process led by the Department of Commerce has been misused to target important job-creating industries in Alabama like auto manufacturing. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Portman that will reform the Section 232 process and help to refocus our efforts on punishing bad actors, rather than hurting American manufacturers, workers, and consumers.”

Portman says misusing America’s trade tools not only hurts exports, but also consumer.

“We must hold countries like China who violate our trade laws accountable, but we must do so in a way that protects American jobs and strengthens the U.S. economy,” said Portman. “As a former USTR, I know that misusing our trade tools not only hurts our exports and our manufacturers, but also our consumers, so I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.”

Ernst agrees in holding bad actors accountable.

“When it comes to national security, we must hold bad actors accountable,” said Ernst. “I support the president’s ability to make trade deals and keep our nation secure, but the Department of Defense must justify the national security basis for new tariffs under Section 232, and we must increase congressional oversight of this process.”

 The Trade Security Act will reform the Section 232 statute and ensure that (1) any Section 232 actions are based on a national security determination by the Department of Defense; and (2) Congress has a larger role to play in 232 actions. Specifically, this bill will:

  • Bifurcate the existing Section 232 process into an investigation phase, led by the Department of Defense, and a remedy phase, led by the Department of Commerce. Splitting these responsibilities, while guaranteeing consultation between the two departments at all stages of the process, plays to each department’s strengths to ensure that the statute is used for genuine national security purposes.
  • Require the Department of Defense – instead of the Department of Commerce – to justify the national security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and make the determination about the national security threat posed by imports of certain products. If a threat is found, the Department of Defense would send its report to the president. In the event that the president desires to take action based on the finding of a national security threat, the president would then direct the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Trade Representative, to develop recommendations for how to respond to the threat. After receiving the recommendations of the Secretary of Commerce, the president would decide whether to take action.
  • Increase the role of Congress in the Section 232 process by expanding the process whereby Congress can disapprove of a Section 232 action by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. Currently, Section 232 contains a disapproval resolution process limited only to the disapproval of actions on oil imports, which was a reaction to the only two uses of Section 232 over the past 55 years. This bill would expand the use of that disapproval resolution process to all types of products. The reformed disapproval process will only apply to future Section 232 actions.
  • Require consultation with Congress throughout the Section 232 process.