Senate Floor Showdown: Sen. Sherrod Brown Blocks Anti-Section 232 Vote

By Matthew McMullan
Jun 27 2018 |
The typically staid U.S. Senate witnessed a back-and-forth over the Trump administration’s trade policy today. | Gage Skidmore

Effort would have put steel and aluminum tariffs into doubt.

Some Senate Republicans don’t like the rationale for the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs. So much so that they’re trying to add an amendment to a spending bill that would halt any president’s ability to use that rationale without Congressional approval!

They’ve been at it for a while now, reports Politico:

[Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)], with a coalition of liberal, conservative and moderate senators, were rebuffed earlier this month when trying to attach their amendment to a defense bill. GOP leaders did not want to confront the president so directly, and Corker was told his amendment had procedural problems because the defense bill wasn't a revenue bill.

Though the proposal is dividing the Republican caucus that's unsure if it wants to cross its own president, it looked like the GOP Senate leadership was gonna clear the way for a vote on whether to adopt the amendment – and add it to the farm bill. Would such a farm bill pass? Who knows! The farm bill is a huge piece of legislation. But advancing that amendment would significantly increase the chances that Republican skeptics would succeed in rolling back tariffs they don’t like.

So the Senate skeptics took the floor today …

And they were so close to getting their vote!

But then …

Yes, that’s right: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) objected, and made the case for keeping the tariffs – and the rationale for them – in place:

This is a big deal.

Adding Congressional approval to any Section 232 trade cases – which allow for import restrictions on national security grounds – would remove a critical trade tool, offer no replacement solution to deal with the risks caused by global industrial overcapacity, and undermine the president who – whatever you think of him – is in the middle of an attempt to rework American trade policy that has lead to surging deficits and millions of lost manufacturing jobs since 2000.

What’s more, removing Section 232 would be very bad news to the workers around the country who have seen jobs come back because of the steel and aluminum tariffs.

This is hardly the end of this debate. The critics of Section 232 are persistent, and will find a new avenue to attack this enforcement mechanism. But for the moment, Sen. Brown has turned them back.

Good job, Sen. Brown!