US President Donald Trump speaks next to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch. Photo: AFP
US President Donald Trump speaks next to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch. Photo: AFP

The US Senate on Wednesday approved a motion to restore congressional authority over tariffs imposed on the basis of national security, underscoring bipartisan opposition to the Trump administration’s trade policy.

The non-binding motion, which passed 88-11, comes after lawmakers in both the House and the Senate introduced binding legislation that would crimp the president’s authority on issues related to trade. The bills have yet to be scheduled for a vote.

The proposed legislation, as well as the motion passed on Wednesday, focus on duties imposed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The statute uses national security as a basis for raising barriers to trade and has been used by the Trump administration to slap tariffs on metals imports from important US allies. The White House has launched an investigation into whether tariffs on auto imports should be imposed under the same law.

Lawmakers in both the Republican and Democratic parties have been vocal in their opposition to the use of Section 232.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said in a tweet that the vote on Wednesday “underscores the consensus of the Senate – the admin. should rethink its approach on Section 232 tariffs.”

“I have been leading conversations w/ colleagues on & off the Finance Committee to find a path forward, including legislative options,” he added.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, who has already introduced legislation to curb the president’s trade authority, said the motion was a “baby step.”

“Tariffs are a tax on the American people, and as the US economy and American businesses and consumers begin to feel the damaging effects of incoherent trade policy, I believe support for our legislation will only grow,” Corker said in a statement, as quoted by Inside Trade. “We will continue to push for a binding vote and are hopeful one will be scheduled in the near future,” the Senator stressed.

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