Congressman Jim Cooper

Representing the 5th District of Tennessee

Bipartisan Cooper-Sanford Bill Would Give Congress Authority to Weigh Tariffs

Sep 26, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford (SC-01) today introduced the Promoting Responsible and Free Trade Act, a bipartisan bill that would give Congress a stronger role in implementing trade policy and scrutinizing unnecessary tariffs.

The president currently possesses unilateral authority to impose any tariff under Sections 201, 301 and 232. Before a tariff is imposed, however, the Commerce Department, International Trade Commission (ITC) or U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) must issue a report on the proposed tariff’s justification and potential effects. But Congress doesn’t have an official say in the matter, and the president is able to impose a tariff without any congressional approval or oversight.

The new Cooper-Sanford bill would give Congress the authority to debate and accept or reject any such tariffs before they are imposed.

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

“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,” Rep. Sanford said. “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.”

Here is how each type of tariff would be affected by the new bill:

  • Section 201: The ITC would be required to send its report to Congress for a maximum review period of 60 days. Congress would then 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 would be required to send its report to Congress for a maximum review period of 60 days. Congress would then 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 would be required to send a report that reviews any national security implications and tariff recommendations to Congress for approval.
  • The Defense Department would be required to submit its report on national security implications to the president.
  • If the president determines a tariff is necessary, the Commerce Department 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 two-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.