Press Releases

Legislation would make clear that the International Emergency Economic Powers Act cannot be used to impose tariffs unilaterally  

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Trade Certainty Act, that would ensure that presidents – regardless of which party holds the White House – cannot use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to impose tariffs unilaterally. The IEEPA was not intended to be used as a trade tool and no president has used it to place tariffs on imported products since the legislation’s enactment in 1977. The Trade Certainty Act clarifies Congress’ intent by specifying that the IEEPA does not grant the executive branch the power to impose tariffs or quotas on imported goods.

President Trump has repeatedly relied on national security justifications as he has levied tariffs without involving Congress. In May, President Trump threatened to impose tariffs on all goods from Mexico, the United States’ third-largest trading partner, under the IEEPA for issues unrelated to trade. The threat alone resulted in 10 days of uncertainty and anxiety for U.S. businesses and workers that rely on cross-border trade between the U.S. and Mexico. 

On July 24th, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) passed the Trade Certainty Act by voice vote as part of an amendment to the ARTICLE ONE Act authored by Senator Lee.

“The threat of tariffs alone has the ability to do a great deal of harm to our economy by causing immense disruption and uncertainty for American businesses and workers,” said Senator Carper. “Tariffs should only be imposed as a part of sound and strategic trade policy, not levied on a whim because they do not require congressional approval. I’m proud to author this common sense bill with Senator Toomey that makes small, incremental changes to ensure the rules of the road are clear going forward when it comes to applying tariffs. This isn’t a partisan issue. Tariffs impact every corner of our country, red states and blue states alike. We need to put American consumers and our economy ahead of politics and make sure we protect the people we all represent – no matter who sits in the White House.” 

“The Constitution assigns responsibility on trade to Congress and that’s where it should remain,”said Senator Toomey. “IEEPA gave the president authority to apply financial sanctions in response to an unusual or extraordinary threat to our national security. IEEPA was never intended to delegate to the president unilateral tariff-making power. Our bipartisan legislation ensures the executive branch cannot use IEEPA as a justification for taxing Americans who buy foreign goods.”

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Maggie Hassan (N.H) also joined the bill as original co-sponsors. 

The text of the bill can be found here.