Senators seek curbs on White House’s ability to impose tariffs on national-security grounds

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is proposing legislation that would make it harder for the White House to impose the sort of duties that have hit metals imports, aiming to move beyond stalled congressional efforts to respond to the Trump administration’s national-security tariffs.

The measure, which faces longer odds in the House than in the Senate, could be most meaningful to foreign auto makers, who have been in Trump’s crosshairs despite a recent moderation in tensions between the U.S. and European car companies. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on imported autos, citing national-security concerns.

Portman teamed with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama to unveil a bill Wednesday that would give the Defense Department the power to decide whether such tariffs are justified by national-security concerns.

The Commerce Department would then decide how to respond, including whether to impose the tariffs and where to set them. That would shake up the current arrangement under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which Trump in March used to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, working through the Commerce Department.

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