Portman “spent a lot of time with the administration,” including with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Portman said during a roundtable with reporters.
The fact that the bill would require passage of a congressional resolution of disapproval to overturn Section 232 duties, as opposed to a congressional resolution of approval to authorize the duties, helps the bill’s chances of passage, Portman said.
“The Trump administration … has not come out against our proposal,” he said. “Now, they might. And I’m not saying that they love it, but we do spend a lot of time working with them … getting their input, talking to them.”
The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.
That legislation also would allow Congress to eliminate Section 232 duties in place at the time of the bill’s enactment, contrasting with the Portman legislation.
Portman characterized his bill as a “middle ground” to advance Congress’ efforts to strengthen vetting for Section 232 actions, while ensuring that the existing statute continues to allow the executive branch to quickly act after determining that imports threaten national security.
Portman made clear his preference for addressing Section 232 actions through a disapproval resolution rather than a more stringent approval resolution, adding that allowing Congress to retroactively overturn duties would draw a veto threat from President Donald Trump.
But Portman added he would be open to reconciling other parts of his bill with Toomey’s legislation to broaden consensus about how Congress should address Section 232 actions.
Portman introduced legislation identical to the Trade Security Act last Congress.
This Congress “the biggest difference, to be frank, is that you have the chair of the authorizing committee in the Senate, Chairman [Chuck] Grassley[, R-Iowa], who wants to move forward, and has made a commitment,” Portman said.
Grassley told reporters last month that he hopes to use Portman’s legislation as a basis for committee consideration of ways to address executive Section 232 authorities.
Companion legislation also has drawn interest in the House, Portman noted.
“Some have suggested we should wait until the implementing legislation for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement” is submitted to Congress, Portman said. “I’m not sure when that is. I’m not sure what the process is going to be there with ratification.”
Trump told White House reporters Tuesday that USMCA implementing legislation will be sent to Congress “very shortly,” according to a White House press pool report.
Portman continued on his legislation, “We’re open to any and all avenues to try to get it done.”