How Senator Hassan can help end the trade war

She has a key voice in helping Congress regain control over tariffs

New Hampshire has paid nearly $90 million in additional taxes to the federal government since 2018. None of our congressional representatives voted for the tariffs hitting New Hampshire families and businesses. For that matter, neither did anybody else’s.

Last year, the White House imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum that Granite State firms purchase from abroad. The tariffs were justified using the “national security” authority of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, even though there is no shortage of metals and no threat to the steel and aluminum supply needed by the Department of Defense.

While Congress has largely been silent on this abuse of Section 232 authority, a few members have spoken out.

“If there is a legitimate national security case to be made for certain tariffs, it should be able to withstand congressional scrutiny,” U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, said in endorsing the notion that Congress should play a more forceful role in tariff policy.

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Hassan could be a pivotal player in the coming debate on the issue. The panel’s chairman, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, is working on a bipartisan measure that would give Congress a vote when the president wants to impose a new tariff or raise an existing one.

Hassan has shown in the past that she’s more than willing to support such a proposal. Earlier this year, she was an original co-sponsor of legislation to give Congress a greater say on tariff policy.

Grassley’s planned legislation is not a power grab by a disgruntled Congress. It’s a reclamation project.

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution gives Congress the authority “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.” But Congress has ceded much of its authority to the president over the past several decades. Grassley and Hassan want to get it back.

For many in New Hampshire, that reform can’t come soon enough. So far, residents have paid an extra $89 million in taxes — tariffs are taxes by another name.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, employers have been forced to choose between putting their businesses at risk by absorbing the costs of tariffs, or alienating customers by passing the costs along.

Last year, All Metals Industries Inc. of Belmont reported that it had taken a sizable hit from the Section 232 metal tariffs. The company, which imports, shapes and finishes metal from abroad, has seen a huge decline in its customer base.

“We have had opportunities to sell hundreds and hundreds of tons to people who we heretofore had not heard of,” said Terry Robinson, chairman of All Metals. But that was before the tariffs.

With higher costs for imported metal, the company has had to cancel orders and turn away customers.

“Our philosophy is that we will never hear from them again, when this is all over,” Robinson said.

In a state so reliant on international trade, cases like that of All Metals aren’t uncommon. New Hampshire imported nearly $12.5 billion worth of goods last year. That makes us particularly vulnerable to additional taxation.

New Hampshire is simultaneously taking a hit from foreign countries that have raised tariffs on American goods in retaliation. Exports subject to these tariffs have dropped 27% in 2019, facing $33 million in added duties. We’ll face further economic harm as the trade war wears on.

Congress needs to act. Senator Grassley’s planned legislation shows the way. Senator Hassan should be leading a bipartisan parade to move it forward.

Ross Connolly of Merrimack is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion