Government

Grassley to seek support for taking back congressional trade authority

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) talks with reporters as he departs through the subway system after taking a series of votes at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2019.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) talks with reporters as he departs through the subway system after taking a series of votes at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

CEDAR RAPIDS — When Sen. Chuck Grassley calls U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer before the Finance Committee next week, it will be a “regular oversight hearing” — not an attempt to rein in President Donald Trump’s authority on trade and tariffs.

“I presume most of the discussion will be about China and U.S., Mexico and Canada,” he said.

His focus will be on how soon the administration will complete a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Democrats, Grassley added, most likely will focus on environment, labor and enforcement.

But that doesn’t mean the Iowa Republican isn’t interested in returning some of that authority to Congress, he said Wednesday. He expects that within the next couple weeks to meet with Senate colleagues to see if there is a consensus on taking back some of the trade authority Congress has ceded to the presidency over time.

“We’ve got to get pretty good bipartisan support (because) potentially the presidency isn’t going to like it,” Grassley said. “Once you delegate, you better have a two-thirds vote” to override a presidential veto.

Grassley made clear that, although it has been Trump’s trade policies and use of tariffs that are prompting him, his target is not the man himself.

“It’s the presidency, not the president,” Grassley told reporters during a conference call. “Congress is at fault any time a president uses legislative power to do certain things.

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“So don’t blame who’s in the presidency, you’ve got to blame Congress for delegating so much legislative authority.”

Under Article I, all legislative power belongs to Congress, but Grassley believes over the past 80 years that “Congress has been too liberal, not just in tariffs, but in many, many areas of delegating too much of its legislative authority to the presidency.”

The problem is that once Congress has delegated its authority to the president, it’s hard to get it back.

“You better have a two-thirds vote” because the president likely will say, “‘Congress gave me this power, it’s the right thing to do so I’m going to veto this bill.’”

• Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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