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Murphy Introduces Bill to Enhance Congressional Authority Over Tariffs

Legislation is a response to Trump administration’s unprecedented use of tariffs, which harm American consumers and companies

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Washington, June 25, 2019 | comments

WASHINGTON—U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Fla., a member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, today introduced legislation to strengthen congressional involvement in decisions by the U.S. government to impose tariffs on imported goods. The Reclaiming Congressional Trade Authority Act is a response to a series of unilateral tariff actions taken by the Trump administration that have caused significant harm to American consumers, farmers and businesses. Most recently, the administration took the unprecedented step of threatening to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports for alleged national security reasons. As a result of tariffs imposed to date, the average American family is paying an additional $767 annually in the form of higher prices for consumer goods. In Florida specifically, taxpayers have paid about $600 million in additional tariffs, there has been a significant drop in Florida exports, and about 150,000 Florida jobs have been placed at risk, according to Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.


“The time has come for Congress to reclaim its constitutional authority over trade. Imposing tariffs without a concrete strategy is harming American families, consumers, and businesses, and it’s undermining longstanding relationships with our allies. The branch of government that is closest to the people needs to have a say in these potentially destabilizing decisions. Working families should not have to pay the price for the president’s reckless use of this tariff authority,” said Murphy, a former national security specialist at the Department of Defense.

The Murphy bill would require the current presidential administration—and all future administrations—to justify to Congress the imposition of new national security tariffs. Congress would review any tariffs proposed by the president on alleged national security grounds and would be required to vote to approve them. If Congress does not endorse the tariffs, the tariffs could not last for more than 120 days. In addition, the bill would formalize a process for Congress to review non-national security tariffs proposed by the president.

“Tariffs are taxes on Americans. Since the trade war began, the administration has collected over $27 billion in taxes from Americans without a single vote from Congress. This legislation gives a voice to the farmers, businesses and consumers frustrated over the rapidly escalating trade war and provides an important and timely check on what has become an abuse of executive authority. We applaud Representative Murphy for leading this effort and urge members of both parties to get off the sidelines and provide much-needed certainty and stability for hardworking Americans caught in the crosshairs of the trade war. We can achieve better trade deals without massive tax increases on the American people,” said Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, the national campaign supported by over 150 of America’s largest trade organizations representing retail, tech, manufacturing and agriculture.

“Thanks to Rep. Murphy for her leadership in introducing this much needed legislation, which is a welcome exercise of Congressional oversight and its tariff making authorities. The textile, apparel, footwear, and travel goods industry already pays too many tariffs – approximately 40% of all tariffs collected by the U.S. Government even though we account for only 6% of U.S. imports. Imposing more tariffs, particularly due to unrelated national security concerns, should only be done with full Congressional support, within a limited scope, and in response to the most extreme circumstances,” said Rick Helfenbein, President and CEO, American Apparel & Footwear Association.

“We’ve seen the tremendous disruption a tool like tariffs can have on retail supply chains. Having Congressional oversight and checks on delegated tariff authority will help inform policymakers on any potential impact, particularly on American consumers and businesses. Retailers thank Representative Stephanie Murphy and Senators Tom Carper and Tim Kaine for introducing this legislation,” said Hun C. Quach, Vice President, Retail Industry Leaders Association.

“We agree with the need to deliver fair and balanced trade deals, but taxing Americans isn’t the answer—especially without a single vote from Congress. At a time when American businesses and consumers are facing unprecedented tariffs imposed unilaterally, it’s time to reexamine the appropriate balance on trade policy between Congress and the executive branch. This legislation represents an important step forward. We urge members of both parties to join this effort and protect hardworking Americans from a growing trade war that could destroy thousands of jobs and raise costs for families across the country,” said David French, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, National Retail Federation.

“Congresswoman Murphy’s bill regarding tariff oversight highlights the need for stability in our international supply chains. By allowing the tariff process to be better managed by members of Congress who interact with constituents daily, bakers and American manufacturers can be confident in our nation’s trade agenda,” said Jack Detiveaux, Senior Manager for Government Relations, American Bakers Association.

There was a time when no one questioned providing Presidents of both parties with the authority to use tariffs under the Trade Act of 1974 and the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. This Administration, however, has used tariffs is a way that has created tremendous uncertainty for our companies and consumers. We think it is important to have a national dialogue around this ongoing authority that Congress has granted to this Administration. Representative Murphy's bill is a step in the right direction and we support strong congressional oversight when it comes to trade policy,” said Matt Priest, President & CEO, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.

“The administration’s trade war and compounding tariffs have inflicted a heavy toll on the recreational boating industry, and we thank Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy for spearheading legislation that will rein in these unwarranted, counterproductive actions. It’s time for Congress to step up and reassert its constitutionally mandated role in shaping our country’s trade policy and we encourage every member of the U.S. House of Representatives to support and pass this commonsense measure,” said Nicole Vasilaros, Senior Vice President for Government and Legal Affairs, National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“Stable global value chains and predictable trade policies are essential to American industries, including the outdoor recreation industry manufacturers and retailers that contribute to the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. Arbitrarily imposing new and higher punitive tariffs on products sourced from our trading partners, with limited or no input from American businesses that rely on stable trade systems, is disrupting at best and potentially devasting to entire industries. Representative Murphy’s bill would help to solve this issue by establishing a meaningful role for Congress in the decision to impose tariffs under various provisions of U.S. trade law – so that American industries, jobs and our consumers are protected and not negatively impacted by ill-conceived trade policies,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs, Outdoor Industry Association.

The bill is also endorsed by the Travel Goods Association (TGA) and the Toy Association.

The Reclaiming Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019 will:

  1. Require congressional approval for national security tariffs. 
    • The president would retain authority to impose new or additional tariffs for national security purposes, but the tariff action could not last for longer than 120 days unless Congress authorizes the action through an affirmative vote.
      • This provision will apply to tariffs proposed by the president under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962; the International Emergency Economic Powers Act; and the Trading With the Enemy Act.  
  1. Increase and formalize the congressional role in non-national security tariffs. 
    • Requires the United States Trade Representative to provide Congress with clear goals and the strategy behind any proposed tariff action, and provides a mechanism for Congress to block the tariff through a joint resolution of disapproval (subject to presidential veto and congressional override). 
      • This provision will apply to tariffs proposed by the president under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.
  1. Require a presidential administration to provide more information to Congress for both national security and non-national security tariffs. 
    • Requires the International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency, to provide Congress with analyses of proposed tariff actions and requires a presidential administration to formally consult with relevant congressional committees prior to taking a tariff action.

A companion bill (S. 899) has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Tom Carper of Delaware.

Click here for the bill text. Click here for a summary of the legislation. 

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U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy represents Florida’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. The district includes all of Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, including downtown Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, and the University of Central Florida. Previously, Murphy was a businesswoman and college instructor who also served as a national security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where she received numerous awards, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Murphy lives in Winter Park with her husband and two children.

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