Senators Push Back on Tariffs Nonbinding Motion Backed by Toomey, Others Wins Approval

By Mauriello, Tracie | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), July 12, 2018 | Go to article overview

Senators Push Back on Tariffs Nonbinding Motion Backed by Toomey, Others Wins Approval


Mauriello, Tracie, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


WASHINGTON -U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey scored a small and symbolic win Wednesday in his effort to wrest back trade authority from a president he believes is abusing his power.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a Republican-driven effort to push back against a president from its own party who has invoked national security to justify steel and aluminum tariffs. The tariffs reduce competition for domestic producers but raise prices for downstream manufacturers and consumers.

Wednesday's 88-11 vote was on a nonbinding "motion to instruct," which provides guidance to conferees hammering out differences between House and Senate versions of a water and energy spending bill.

The measure was sponsored by Mr. Toomey, R-Pa., along with Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, two of the GOP's strongest critics of President Donald Trump. Mr. Toomey usually supports Trump policies, but not this time.

He said the president had gone a step too far by invoking a provision of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 -Section 232, which gives presidents unilateral authority to impose tariffs in cases of national security.

Mr. Toomey believes Mr. Trump has taken too broad a view of what counts as national security. He noted that the United States imports all but 25 percent of the steel it uses, and that another 25 percent is produced mainly by allies Mexico and Canada, both of which import more American steel than they export to the U.S. Further, Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the military needs only 3 percent of domestic steel produced.

"There is no security threat," Mr. Toomey said in a speech on the Senate floor. "We made a mistake in recent decades when we ceded this constitutional responsibility to the executive branch . and now we're seeing a price being paid as the administration, I think, is misusing this important tool."

Foreign competitors have retaliated by imposing tariffs of their own on U.S. agricultural exports.

Mr. Trump has said his tariffs are meant to protect American businesses from unfair foreign competition. He expressed his displeasure with the Senate in a tweet from Brussels, where he was attending the North American Treaty Organization summit. …

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