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Senators seek to check president's authority on tariffs related to national security

WASHINGTON — U.S. senators are introducing legislation to try to limit whether the president can use national security as a reason to impose tariffs without the approval of Congress.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is the primary sponsor of the bill and offered it even after President Donald Trump tried to dissuade him from doing so.

The Trump administration last week announced steel and aluminum tariffs on many U.S. allies, including Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, claiming the tariffs were for national security reasons.

Corker's bill would require the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

After it has been submitted, Congress would have 60 days to act on the proposal. Congressional approval would be required for all future Section 232 actions, as well as those taken within the past two years, including the recent steel and aluminum tariffs.

"While we all agree on the need to ensure the international trade system is fair for American workers, companies and consumers, unfortunately, the administration is abusing the Section 232 authority delegated to the president by Congress," said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement. "Making claims regarding national security to justify what is inherently an economic question not only harms the very people we all want to help and impairs relations with our allies but also could invite our competitors to retaliate. If the president truly believes invoking Section 232 is necessary to protect the United States from a genuine threat, he should make the case to Congress and to the American people and do the hard work necessary to secure congressional approval."

The bill will be an amendment to the defense authorization legislation which the Senate will soon debate.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., is among a bipartisan group of senators who have signed onto the bill. Heitkamp called the administration's trade policies "wrongheaded."

Heitkamp says it's a discussion that has been needed even before the current events.

"I don't think that it's good for our country to make this level of an economic decision without some sort of congressional oversight," she said.

Other co-sponsors are Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Mark Warner, D-Va.