A US Court of International Trade tribunal rejected a bid to undo President Donald Trump’s 25 percent tariff on steel imports, ruling that the Cold War-era law used to install the levy does not violate the US Constitution’s separation of powers.
The 2-1 decision by the special three-judge CIT shut down a suit by the American Institute for International Steel asserting that Congress gave away too much of its constitutional authority over trade policy when it passed Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows the president to place import restriction on items he deems a threat to national security.
In examining the AIIS claim, the panel ultimately found that it was mostly foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s 1976 decision in Federal Energy Administration v. Algonquin, which held that Section 232 did not violate the Constitution’s so-called nondelegation doctrine.
“One might argue that the statute allows for a gray area where the president could invoke the statute to act in a manner constitutionally reserved for Congress but not objectively outside the president’s statutory authority, and the scope of review would preclude the uncovering of such a truth,” the panel wrote. “Nevertheless, such concerns are beyond this court’s power to address, given the Supreme Court’s decision in Algonquin.”
Sparsely used throughout its history, the Trump administration gave a sudden embrace to the statute in April of 2017 by launching a probe of steel and aluminum imports that eventually led to Trump’s tariffs a year later.
The case has spurred efforts to rein in the White House’s power under Section 232. With a court decision now coming down on Trump’s side, that task will now fall to lawmakers that have introduced a number of Section 232 reform bills.