Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) reintroduced the Global Trade Accountability Act Wednesday, a bill that would subject unilateral actions by the president to increase trade barriers to congressional approval. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined as cosponsors of the bill.
“Congress has ceded far too much of its lawmaking power to the executive branch, including the power to unilaterally raise tariffs,” Sen. Lee said. “Sudden hikes in trade barriers can have real and devastating impacts on American small businesses, farmers, and families, including in my home state of Utah. As the deliberative body and the people’s representatives, Congress must be involved in any decision that would increase barriers to trade, especially as global supply lines continue to be disrupted from the pandemic.”
“The Kansas economy depends on sound trade policies, and imposing undue tariffs or other trade restrictions can have serious ramifications on Kansas agriculture and manufacturing,” said Sen. Moran. “For too long, administrations have been making trade decisions without appropriate input from the legislative branch, and this legislation would reinstate Congress’ constitutional authority over commerce with foreign countries.”
“As a constitutional republic, tax increases should never be imposed by the whim of one person,” said Sen. Paul. “The Founders deliberately crafted a system that prevented one branch from becoming more powerful than others and it would have been inconceivable to the Revolutionary generation that the President could unilaterally raise tariffs, which are taxes on foreign imports paid by consumers of those products. The Global Trade Accountability Act restores the Founders’ vision by requiring Congress to deliberate and potentially block on any tariff proposals that effectively raise taxes on the American people.”
The Global Trade Accountability Act would require both chambers of Congress to affirmatively approve of any “unilateral trade actions” by the president before they could take effect, which are defined in this legislation as any increases in tariffs or duties, tightening of tariff-rate quotas or quantitative restrictions on imports, and other restrictions or prohibitions on imports. However, the Act does allow for “national emergency” exceptions for a period of 90 days, after which the president would still have to obtain approval from both chambers of Congress.