The Senate by a vote of 88-11 on Wednesday approved a motion introduced by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to instruct lawmakers to include nonbinding language in pending energy and water spending legislation to set forth a role for Congress in making determinations under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.
“This is a baby step in the right direction for the United States Senate — and for our country,” Corker said on the Senate floor in introducing the bill.
Corker and Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said they will continue to push for a binding vote on legislation they introduced last month to require congressional approval of Section 232 national security tariffs, according to a statement on Corker’s website.
The last two attempts for a vote on that measure were blocked — first by Senate GOP leadership during debate on the annual National Defense Authorization Act and second by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, during debate on the 2018 Farm Bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Wednesday indicated the passed measure could be a nonstarter in the House, saying in response to a question during a press conference about whether he would support the measure that he doesn’t want to “hamstring the president’s negotiating tactics.”
A Senate Finance Committee spokesperson said committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is opposed to steel and aluminum tariffs, isn’t ruling out pursuing legislation on Section 232, but the spokesperson noted that it is too early to say what specific direction might be taken as Hatch continues conversations with Finance members on how best to move forward.
A June 20 committee hearing on tariffs “helped to focus committee members” on the issue, and they will continue to discuss the topic and how to best address Section 232 tariff measures, the spokesperson said.
“I am leading conversations with colleagues on and off the Finance Committee on a path forward, including potential legislative options,” Hatch said in an emailed statement to American Shipper. “My goal is to arrive at an outcome that has sufficient consensus for the committee to take action.”
Speaking briefly to American Shipper on Monday, committee member Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said there “are a lot of those efforts going on” to assert Congress’ role in Section 232 decisions.
Isakson said he has been involved in conversations to flesh out how “national security” would be defined within that legislation, but that he couldn’t yet provide any information “that you could count on” about potential paths forward on that matter.
As the tariffs continue, chances increase that the committee will move quickly on any legislation, he said.
“The longer this keeps going, the quicker it’s going to be,” Isakson said. “Time’s in our favor.”