Trade Update (January 28)
|Presidential Trade Powers
Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI) and 18 cosponsors formally introduced the “United States Reciprocal Trade Act,” which would expand President Trump’s ability to impose tariffs on another country if he believes its tariff and non-tariff measures are unfair or too restrictive. In a statement, Rep. Duffy said, “The goal of the U.S. Reciprocal Trade Act is NOT to raise America’s tariffs but rather to encourage the rest of the world to lower theirs. The American people deserve FREE and FAIR trade, and the Reciprocal Trade Act will be an important step in achieving that goal.”
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) and 10 cosponsors introduced H.R. 723, a bill “To provide for congressional review of the imposition of duties and other trade measures by the executive branch, and for other purposes.” Unlike Rep. Duffy’s bill, H.R. 723 would require congressional approval before the president can take any unilateral trade action.
Finance Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) said that the Duffy bill will not be considered in the Senate, but that measures like Davidson’s to limit executive authority to impose tariffs are likely to get a hearing before the Finance Committee.
US Trade Representative (USTR) Hearing
USTR will hold a hearing on Tuesday (Jan 29) regarding the US-United Kingdom trade deal. Despite the shutdown–which impacts USTR and the Department of Commerce–USTR officials have confirmed the hearing will take place on Tuesday. Witnesses from farm, business, and labor groups will testify to help USTR develop its negotiating positions. The federal register notice regarding the hearing and request for comment can be found here.
Partial Government Shutdown
The partial government shutdown has entered its 35th day. Yesterday, the Senate considered procedural motions to end debate on two competing bills which would reopen the government agencies that remain shut down. The first bill included $5.7 billion requested by the White House for border wall funding. It also included a three year extension of protections for hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” (people who were brought to the United States as young children) and other immigrants who hold Temporary Protected Status. The second bill would fund all closed agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS would be funded by a three-week continuing resolution to allow congressional leaders to continue negotiations over what to do at the southern border. This second bill contained no additional money for a border wall.
Neither bill met the required 60 vote threshold, but it is worth noting that the second proposal received more votes than the White House-supported bill. Six Republican Senators (Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Johnny Isakson of Georgia) voted in favor of both bills. The Republicans have cancelled their annual retreat scheduled for next week in order to continue working on a solution to the partial shutdown. It appears that some Republicans are beginning to break with the hard line taken by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has said that any proposals that contain no money for border barriers are nonstarters. In a statement following the Senate votes, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said he was supportive of a “third way” which would “reopen the government in the short term with the commitment to a border-security plan that can be enacted in the next few weeks.”
President Trump announced Friday afternoon (Jan 25) that he supports reopening the government for three weeks, as Portman suggested, to hold further negotiations on border security and government funding while putting federal employees back to work.
 “Duffy Introduces Legislation to Level the Playing Field on Trade.” Duffy.House.gov, 24 Jan 2019. https://duffy.house.gov/press-release/duffy-introduces-legislation-to-level-the-playing-field-on-trade
 Russell Berman and Elaine Godfrey. “Republicans Bend, but Don’t Break, on the Shutdown.” The Atlantic, 24 Jan 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/01/senate-didnt-take-its-chance-end-shutdown/581185/
 Melissa Hudson. “Trump: Deal reached to temporarily reopen the government.” ABC57.com, 25 Jan 2019. https://www.abc57.com/news/deal-reached-to-temporarily-reopen-the-government