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ICYMI: Grassley and his colleagues should restore oversight of tariff policy

Oct 1, 2019 by Gabrielle Braud

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips | The Hill

Tariffs, like taxes, are paid by the American people. The difference is that Congress votes on taxes. Although the Constitution grants the legislative branch the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations”, over much of the past century Congress has delegated more and more authority over trade policy to the executive branch.

In response to the ongoing trade dispute, Congress might finally be getting back in the game. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley is drafting legislation designed to increase congressional accountability over tariff increases.

Overall, the metal tariffs increased the price of steel products by 9% last year, making everything from beer to boats to grills more expensive and forcing companies large and small to choose between raising prices, laying off workers, or absorbing the cost themselves (to the detriment of their owners and investors).

In the broader economy, the ripples are spreading. According to a study published earlier this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the administration’s trade wars were costing our nation’s businesses and consumers $3 billion and nearly $1.5 billion in lost efficiency per month by the end of 2018. Moody’s Analytics estimated that the trade war with China alone has eliminated 300,000 jobs and could wipe out up to 900,000 jobs by the end of next year.

Any tariff imposed by a president should be approved by Congress, including actions taken under other sections of law. It is critical that Congress reclaim its constitutional role in the tariff process to guard against unilateral actions that hurt the economy, and that threaten the checks and balances that define our system of government.

Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity.