What would happen if the president could define what constitutes a threat to national security and enact a policy concurrent with that determination? And what would happen if, because of that, people from the United States were allowed to collect indirect taxes from their seat in the Oval Office? Through section 232 of the Cold War era of the Commercial Expansion Act of 1962, both realities exist.
Under Section 232, any US chief or agency. UU. It has the authority to initiate import investigations related to threats to national security. It is a process that can be completely self-initiated by the executive branch. But at present, there is no functional definition of what is a threat to national security, and that the determination is made by the Department of Commerce, which has allowed the executive branch to be too full on trade policy issues.
For his part, President Donald Trump has certainly taken advantage of this ambiguity, more recently with his advised against steel and aluminum tariffs. If lawmakers want to enforce constitutional uses of power and consumer-friendly policy, they should reduce the scope of this legislation by supporting restorative legislation as seen through a recent proposal by Senator Patrick Toomey.
How does this section facilitate executive reach? Vague guidelines The provisions of Section 232 do not specify what constitutes a threat to national security, only that the investigation should consider:
"… certain factors, such as: domestic production necessary for the projected national defense requirements; domestic capacity; the availability of human resources and essential supplies for national defense; and the potential for unemployment, loss of skills or investment , or the decrease in government revenues as a result of the displacement of any national product due to excessive imports. "
Allowing almost anyone in the executive branch to interpret and investigate imports for reasons of national security is an outrageous provision. Just look at some of the real-world implications that this power has had in the last year.
When President Trump was not obtaining a favorable trade agreement with China, he said the situation posed a threat to national security and enacted aluminum and steel tariffs. The president and many of his supporters said tariffs were necessary to ensure the necessary provisions to maintain the proper functioning of the military.
None of this is really true.
The United States is the fourth largest steel producer in the world: it produces approximately 80 million tons of steel per year. But the United States Army consumes less than 3 million tons of steel a year, so the amount of steel we produce annually is almost twenty-seven times the amount of steel our army needs. In a word, there is no threat to national security and Trump was exaggerating things to get what he was looking for. With its national production alone, the United States could supply twenty-seven defense departments with only its national production.
But Section 232 says it can, without consequences.
When it is up to the president's criteria to take the measures he deems appropriate, the necessary legislative process becomes debatable. Meanwhile, this president's uncontrolled inclination for tariffs is negatively affecting the more than six million people with jobs in industries that consume steel through price increases.
The problem can be solved, of course. At this time, there are two proposed bills to address this problem by GOP Sens. Patrick Toomey (PA) and Rob Portman (OH). However, only Toomey's bill will achieve something significant.
While the Portman bill, called the Commercial Security Act, would simply reaffirm the power of Congress that it already had and create exemptions for Trump's previous executive actions, Toomey's bill is more restrictive and aims to limit the president's power. He wants the approval of Congress to be absolutely required to establish the rates recommended in Section 232. That is, while the weaker Commercial Security Act that Portman has allowed allows the rates to take effect unless Congress approves a measure to stop them, Senator Toomey's bill needs to Approval by Congress of all fees in Section 232 before they become effective.
This is a movement in the right direction. The restrictions proposed by Toomey bring back the balance of power, rejecting broad executive coverage. Furthermore, it reduces the scope of the provision in such a way that a president's interpretation of a threat to national security is not the only lens through which the supposed threat is seen. Toomey's legislation incorporates a very necessary and strict definition of "national security" in the statute while establishing the requirement that the Department of Defense must conduct future investigations of Section 232 that incorporate this definition, a significant improvement in the current case of the Department of Commerce. -the case determinations.
The Toomey bill provides a real opportunity to reduce the scope of Section 232 and verify the power of Trump's rates. If members of Congress want to help American consumers while restoring the balance of power, they must support Toomey's smart policy proposal and return the power to where it belongs.
Anthony DiMauro is a Young Voices contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyMDiMauro.
. (tagsToTranslate) Commerce (t) Commerce (t) Donald Trump (t) Tarrifs (t) China (t) National Security (t) Economy