The bill, introduced by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, would shift responsibility for starting Section 232 investigations from the Commerce secretary to the Defense secretary. The Defense secretary would be required to give the Commerce secretary notice of such investigations, amending the current requirement that is the other way around.
The Defense secretary would be required to prepare an assessment of defense requirements and national security impact of any good subject to an investigation, which the bill says should focus on the impact of the import on military readiness and critical infrastructure and the need for a reliable supply of the article to protect national security.
In preparing such investigations, the Defense secretary would have to seek information and advice from the Commerce secretary, consult with “appropriate officers” of the United States and with members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees, and co-chair public hearings with the Commerce Department, “or otherwise afford interested parties” the opportunity to inform and advise pursuant to such an investigation.
The legislation would bifurcate the Section 232 process into an investigation phase led by the Defense Department and a remedy phase led by Commerce, according to a press release from Portman’s office.
Under the bill’s language, the Commerce secretary would still be responsible for recommending measures to address any national security threats found through Section 232 investigations, after the results of those reviews are submitted to the president, which would be required within 200 days of the reviews’ initiation.
Passage of a congressional disapproval resolution would nullify any actions taken by the executive branch to adjust imports pursuant to Section 232, under the Portman, Jones and Ernst legislation.
The bill language specifically states that past and future actions pursuant to a March 8 proclamation by President Donald Trump to adjust steel and aluminum imports under Section 232 would not be affected by any disapproval resolution vote.
The Trump administration has taken a broad interpretation of the existing Section 232 statute’s applicability to national security to include economic security as well.
“We must hold countries that violate our trade laws accountable, but we must do so in a way that protects American jobs and strengthens the U.S. economy,” Portman said in a statement. “I have repeatedly expressed concerns about the misuse of the Section 232 statute to impose tariffs on automobiles and auto parts and its impact on Ohio jobs and the U.S. economy as a whole. This bipartisan legislation maintains this trade tool while properly placing the national security designation at the Department of Defense and expanding the role of Congress in the process.”