Sending Office: Honorable Stephanie N. Murphy
As a Member of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, I write to respectfully invite you to a briefing I will host on whether federal law should be amended to provide Congress with a more meaningful role in decisions by the U.S. government to impose tariffs
on imported products, especially when the executive branch’s stated rationale for the tariff increase is to protect national security.
The briefing will be held on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. in 2020 Rayburn House Office Building. This is the third in a series of briefings I am holding on trade issues that affect quality of life in the United States. The first briefing—about
the U.S.-China trade conflict—can be viewed
here. The second briefing—about the crisis at the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body—can be viewed
A recent National Bureau of Economic Research
working paper affirmed that U.S. tariffs on imported products are “almost entirely borne by U.S. firms and consumers.” To a greater degree than its predecessors, the current administration has made extensive use of tariff-increase authority that Congress
delegated to the executive, although some argue that the administration has exceeded its statutory authority. For example, the administration:
- imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum—and could potentially impose tariffs on motor vehicles/parts and titanium sponge—under
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962;
- imposed tariffs on certain products from China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974; and
- threatened to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 (IEEPA).
In total, the United States imported about $2.5 trillion in goods from other countries in 2019, and about $390 billion—or 15 percent—of that trade was subject to tariffs imposed by the executive branch under Section 232 and Section 301. It is notable that
Congress—which has the constitutional power to levy taxes and duties—was entirely absent from the decision-making process.
In the 116th Congress, at least a dozen bills have been introduced, by both Republicans and Democrats, to provide Congress with greater involvement in tariff decisions. A number of the bills seek to circumscribe a president’s authority to increase
tariffs for “national security” reasons under Section 232 or IEEPA. These bills would require congressional approval—either before a tariff increase can take effect or in order for the tariff increase to remain in effect beyond a certain period of time.
The briefing will feature the following panel of experts:
- C. Fred Bergsten, Peterson Institute for International Economics. Serves on the USTR’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. Previously served as assistant secretary for international affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department
and as assistant for international economic affairs on the National Security Council.
- Kathleen Claussen, Associate Professor, University of Miami School of Law. Previously served as Associate General Counsel at USTR. Author of forthcoming article in the
Stanford Law Review entitled “Trade’s Security Exceptionalism.”
- Rufus Yerxa, President of the National Foreign Trade Council. Previously served as Deputy United States Trade Representative under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and as Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organization.
The panelists will give brief remarks and then answer questions. The briefing will be open to press and live-streamed. To RSVP, please contact Natalie Martinez on my staff at
Natalie.Martinez@mail.house.gov or 5-4035.
Member of Congress
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