February 15, 2019
Lawmakers work to scale back the president’s trade authority as auto tariffs loom
As the Trump administration considers slapping tariffs on auto imports, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are trying to gain more control of trade policy.
Last year, President Trump instructed the Commerce Department to investigate whether imported vehicles and auto parts pose a threat to national security. The department is due to report its findings by February 17.
Now, bipartisan groups of lawmakers are trying to weaken the president’s ability to use national security as a reason to enact tariffs.
BICAMERAL CONGRESSIONAL TRADE AUTHORITY ACT
Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Senator Mark Warner have introduced a bill called the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act. A bipartisan companion bill has been introduced in the House.
The bill puts the Department of Defense in charge of 232 investigations to see if a national security threat exists, instead of the Commerce Department. It would also require approval from Congress before the President can take trade action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
“President Trump has strained our relationships with key allies and partners by abusing the authority that Congress granted him and stretching the concept of ‘national security’ beyond credulity,” said Senator Warner in a statement.
The bill is retroactive, meaning Congress would have to approve any Section 232 actions over the last four years — including President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“Tariffs on steel and aluminum imported into the United States are taxes paid by American consumers. The imposition of these taxes, under the false pretense of national security (Section 232), is weakening our economy, threatening American jobs, and eroding our credibility with other nations. I’ve seen, first-hand, the damage these taxes are causing across Pennsylvania,” said Senator Toomey in a statement.
THE TRADE SECURITY ACT
Republican Senator Rob Portman, who served as the United States Trade Representative from 2005-2006, has introduced a bill that takes a more moderate approach.
Portman’s bill, the Trade Security Act, would also require the Department of Defense to determine national security threats under Section 232. It would give Congress the ability to disapprove tariffs, rather than requiring Congressional approval. Unlike Toomey’s bill, Portman’s legislation is not retroactive.
Speaking to reporters, Portman said his approach will give the president the ability to act quickly if there is a true national emergency, while still increasing Congressional oversight.
“This is not about automobiles or about the Trump administration, this is broader reform I think is consistent with the original intent [of Section 232],” said Portman.
Portman told reporters he’s concerned the United States could lose its ability to use Section 232 if it misuses the statute. Plus, he says misuse leads to retaliatory tariffs that hurt American farmers, manufacturers and consumers.
“My broader view of trade is that if it’s not based on fairness, it comes back to haunt us,” said Portman.
AUTO TARIFFS COULD BE ON THE WAY
If the Commerce Department finds automotive imports present a threat, the President will have ninety days to decide what to do next. President Trump has already floated the idea of a 25% tariff on auto imports.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, spoke against auto tariffs on the senate floor this week.
“I hope the President will heed my call to forego the auto tariffs and focus on opening new markets. The U.S. auto industry is a major driver of our economy, supporting nearly 10 million American jobs and accounting for 3 percent of our GDP. Without question, any tariffs that are imposed will have a negative effect on the U.S. auto industry and our economy,” said Grassley.
Portman has also expressed concern about auto tariffs.
“I don’t know what they’re [the Commerce Department] going to report, but I do know that this [the Trade Security Act] is timely,” said Portman.
The senator told reporters if the Trade Security Act is signed before the President enacts tariffs, there would have to be a new report involving the Department of Defense.
Portman insists the bill is not a direct response to the Trump administration or potential auto tariffs, but says he wants to move quickly to give Congress the ability to push back.
“We are strengthening Congress’ hand and the role of Congress — which again I think is appropriate,” said Portman. “It’s kind of hard to argue that minivans from Canada pose a national security threat.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Doug Jones, Senator Joni Ernst and others have signed on to Portman’s bill. A bipartisan companion bill has been introduced in the House. Source
February 8, 2019
Smucker, Toomey in Lancaster to promote bills to “end future government shutdowns”
Lancaster County Congressman Lloyd Smucker joined U.S. Senator Pat Toomey in Lancaster this afternoon to promote legislation to “end future government shutdowns.”
Also on hand today at the Lancaster County Government Center were Lancaster County Commissioners Joshua Parsons and Dennis Stuckey.
The pair appeared with Smucker and Toomey in support of the federal lawmakers’ sponsorship of the “End Government Shutdowns Act,” which would provide continued funding for federal agencies if Congress fails to adopt an appropriations bill or a continuing resolution on time.
The plan Toomey co-sponsored would keep agencies funded at their current level for 120 days. After those first four months, funding would decrease by 1 percent and then another 1 percent after every other 90-day period that passes without an approved budget.
Smucker’s version would continue funding levels, for the first 60 days, that are 5 percent less than what they had been before. After that, funding would be reduced by another 2 percent in each 60-day period without an enacted budget. Source
February 4, 2019
State of the Union guests reflect issues of interest
Two local members of Congress have invited victims of gun violence
Members of Congress usually get just one seat for a special guest to attend the president’s State of the Union address. Guests often are related to issues under discussion or they are symbolic of an agenda item individual members wish to promote.
Michelle Roberson of West Chester will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Chester County Democrat. She is the mother of Bianca Roberson, who was fatally shot in a 2017 road rage incident in Chester County. Bianca had just graduated from high school and was set to attend college on a full scholarship when she was killed.
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Montgomery County Democrat, will be joined by Jami Amo, a Willow Grove resident, gun safety activist and survivor of the 1999 Columbine school shooting.
Since being sworn in a month ago, the Democratic House majority has introduced a range of firearms legislation, including a universal background check bill.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, has invited Monica Hughes of Pittsburgh, an Army reservist and a Transportation Security Administration officer who missed pay but kept working during the recent government shutdown.
During the shutdown, her family had to draw from savings, apply for food stamps and accept donations from friends and family to stay afloat, Casey’s office said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Lehigh County Republican, has asked a personal friend, John Malloy, to attend. Malloy is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Victaulic, a growing Easton-based manufacturer of mechanical joints for piping systems. He has served in key roles at several other manufacturing businesses and also has earned the Distinguished Citizen’s Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser a Luzerne County Republican, has invited his wife, Shelley Meuser, as his guest. Source
January 30, 2019
Lawmakers Attempt to Rein in President’s Tariff Power
U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation to limit the president’s power to levy import tariffs for national security reasons. The bills face an uncertain future but underscore bipartisan concerns on Capitol Hill over the rising costs of the Trump administration’s trade policies.
The United States in 2018 slapped duties on aluminum and steel from other countries, drawing criticism from lawmakers who support free trade and complaints of rising supply chain costs across business sectors.
Two bipartisan groups of lawmakers Wednesday introduced legislation known as the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The bills would require Trump to have congressional approval before taking trade actions like tariffs and quotas under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The law currently allows the president to impose such tariffs without approval from Capitol Hill.
“The imposition of these taxes, under the false pretense of national security (Section 232), is weakening our economy, threatening American jobs, and eroding our credibility with other nations,” said Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, co-sponsor of the Senate bill.
Toomey led a similar push last year that did not go to a vote.
It is unclear that Congress would consider taking up such legislation now. Still, the bills underscore mounting pressure from lawmakers to address concerns over tariffs, especially those on Canada and Mexico as lawmakers prepare to vote on a new North American trade deal agreed to late last year.
Republican Chuck Grassley from Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, earlier pressed the Trump administration to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico before Congress begins considering legislation to implement the new pact.
Numerous business and agricultural groups have come out in support of the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, but have said its benefits will be limited so long as the U.S. tariffs and retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico remain in place.
Companies are able to request exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs, but the process has been plagued by delays and uncertainty.
“Virginia consumers and industries like craft beer and agriculture are hurting because of the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs,” said Democratic Senator Mark Warner, co-sponsor of the Senate legislation. “This bill would roll them back.”
Republicans Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Darin LaHood of Illinois and Democrats Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Jimmy Panetta of California introduced the House legislation. Source
January 23, 2019
Sen. Pat Toomey On The Shutdown, Gun Control Legislation, Steel Tariffs
As the partial government shutdown continues, Congress remains at an impasse. The House of Representatives has passed bipartisan bills that would reopen the government, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to bring any of those bills to the floor. The Senate may vote on spending bills later this week, but at this point there’s no end to the shutdown in sight. To talk more about what’s happening in Washington, 90.5 WESA’s Lucy Perkins spoke with Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey.
On the partial government shutdown:
It’s very frustrating. But while there’s plenty of blame to go around, I really think that the fundamental problem here has been the unwillingness of Speaker [of the House Nancy] Pelosi to engage in negotiations at all. It’s always been clear to me that the President was open to negotiating the dollar amount. His initial position was $5.7 billion for physical border security.* Her position was zero and she won’t negotiate – and that’s not reasonable.
*Editor’s note: In Trump’s most recent proposal Sunday, he was still requesting $5.7 billion in funding for the wall.
On the Senate not voting on House bills to reopen the government:
You know, Senator McConnell can make his decisions, he’s the leader. We’ve got a bill that’s going to be on the floor later this week, if the Democrats allow us to take it up – I hope they will. I think it should be open to amendment, and those amendments could change it dramatically. I would like to include my provision, for instance, that would preclude future shutdowns. The President may or may not agree with those things, but the Senate should work its will.
On passing gun control legislation:
I’m a big believer in the Second Amendment. I’m a gun owner. I think the Second Amendment is a very, very important individual right. My view has always been that that is not in conflict with my equally strongly held view that it is reasonable for us to do background checks on purchases, certainly commercial gun sales, because some people in our society don’t have the right to the Second Amendment. Specifically, violent criminals who have demonstrated they don’t deserve to have that right, people who are dangerously mentally ill — it is completely reasonable for us to prevent those people from having firearms. We need to have a mechanism for determining whether a person is in one of those two categories. The background check is the mechanism we’ve used, but there are loopholes, there are gaping holes in it … [I]f there’s commercial sales involved, there ought to be a background check. That’s the legislation that I introduced with Sen. [Joe] Manchin [of West Virginia].
What are the prospects in 2019? The prospects have changed, perhaps, because the House has switched control. I’m not happy about the fact that the House has changed control. I’m a Republican, I prefer Republican control. But the silver lining in that cloud, from my point of view, is that now we have a House that can pass broader background-check legislation. I think they will do that. I think they will send it to the Senate, and if we can get a few more Republicans to take my view, which is that expanding background checks does not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, then maybe we’ve got a shot at doing something here.
On the impact of the Trump administration’s steel tariffs:
I have a big stack on my desk of letters from Pennsylvania employers who have been very adversely affected by the tariffs. The President’s tariffs help you if you’re in the business of making steel, but if you’re one of the far more people who are employed in a company that uses steel … that’s a much much bigger industry in Pennsylvania and throughout America, and those folks are already being hurt. There is some danger that many of them will lose their jobs, so the adverse effect is absolutely happening.
The President’s purpose in this was to pressure other countries – specifically Canada and Mexico – to negotiate a new trade agreement. Well, for better or for worse the Canadians and the Mexicans have done that, they’ve agreed to a new trade agreement and the administration was supposed to lift these tariffs when an agreement was reached. It has been reached and they still haven’t lifted the tariffs. So it’s frustrating to me, and it’s harmful. It’s simply a factual matter that a tariff is a tax on American consumers. The President likes to brag about how many billions of dollars are coming into the treasury. Well, they’re all coming out of American wallets.
On Saudi Arabia and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi:
I think [the Trump] administration didn’t handle that situation well. Unfortunately, it’s true, there are many regimes around the world that commit atrocities including murdering some of their own people including murdering their dissidents. That doesn’t make it OK, and it certainly doesn’t make it OK for our allies. We do expect more from our allies, and certainly Saudi Arabia has been an ally.
I think there are a variety of ways we can send the message to the Saudi government that that is completely unacceptable – a temporary suspension of weapons sales, for instance, would be just one of many ways that we could convey that message. It’s difficult, because there is a reason that we are allied with Saudi Arabia and it’s because our two countries share common security interests. Saudi Arabia is the most significant counterweight to Iran in the Middle East and Iran is extremely hostile to the United States and our interests. But it’s problematic when their government goes off the rails as they did in the case of the assassination of Khashoggi.
We need to strike the right balance. It is not the case that we should suddenly no longer consider … Saudi Arabia to be an ally, but it is the case that we need to send a very strong message to their leadership that that behavior was completely unacceptable. Source
The Indiana Gazette
January 12, 2019
‘Frustrating’ shutdown requires compromise, Sen. Toomey says
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, told The Indiana Gazette editorial board Friday that the ongoing partial shutdown of federal government operations is “maddenly frustrating.”
The state’s junior senator also said he is open to a compromise to resolve border security issues that contributed to that shutdown, including some immigration reforms.
For instance, Toomey said, “I would be open to something on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as part of this mix.”
DACA refers to approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country prior to 2007 and before their 16th birthday, but who otherwise haven’t broken the law and have either graduated with a high school equivalent or served in the military.
There were reports Friday in various media that Senate Republicans included DACA in negotiations over a border wall, and that the Trump administration wants the U.S. Supreme Court to dismantle the DACA program.
However, Toomey “really believes” neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nor Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., want a compromise, and that President Trump opened the door for their stance.
“The president made a big tactical mistake when he said the shutdown would be on him,” Toomey said.
The Pennsylvania Republican said Trump eventually may sign a “clean” bill to end the shutdown and not include funding for barriers along the Mexican border, but then declare a national emergency to fund them.
“It would be a big mistake,” Toomey said, because it could create a precedent for a future president.
He suggested Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as an example, saying she could decide on gun controls “because the murder rate is too high,” or to ban off-shore drilling to deal with climate change.
“I think we are in a very unfortunate spot,” Toomey said.
Toomey said most senators have voted in the past for tens of millions of dollars for construction of a wall along the border, and said construction of several hundred miles of barriers “is a very reasonable request,”
The senator added, “No one is proposing a 2,000-mile continuous wall,” and that $5 billion proposed by the president for the southern border only would result “in a couple hundred miles at best.”
The three-week-old shutdown only covers a sliver of all government operations, “but it’s an important sliver,” Toomey told Gazette reporters and editors.
“Sixty percent of the government is on autopilot,” the Lehigh County senator said.
As for those who haven’t received paychecks in three weeks, Toomey said, “everyone is going to be paid, but you have to wait for it.”
He said to discourage future shutdowns, he would like to have a mechanism kick in that would allow for automatic continuation of government programs at the end of a fiscal year, perhaps with a decrease in funding of 1 percent or 2 percent. Source
43total visits,1visits today