EDITORIAL: Tariffs a step too far for Toomey

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks during a television news interview on Capitol Hill in Washington. For years the federal government for years has kept under wraps the names of hundreds of nursing homes around the country found to have serious health, safety or sanitary problems. Lawmakers say the silence calls into question the government’s commitment to families going through the difficult process of finding a nursing home for a loved one. The secrecy began to crack June 3, 2019, when two U.S. senators from Pennsylvania released the government’s list.. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

Let's call him No-Tariffs Toomey.

Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania's Republican senator, is speaking out again as President Donald Trump threatens to put more tariffs in place. 

This time, Trump's target is Mexico, and he wants to start with a 5% tariff on goods coming into the United States on Monday, June 10, and raise that tariff another 5% each month up to 25%.

Trump says the purpose is to make Mexico stop the flow of Central Americans coming to the southern border of the United States.

Trump's administration points to section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 for authorization. Under that section, the president has nearly unchecked authority to impose tariffs on products that are believed to threaten national security.

More:Toomey renews call for tariff oversight after Trump threatens Mexico

More:Trump: Progress to stave off Mexico tariffs but ‘not enough’

More:LIVE UPDATES: Vice President Pence visits York County amid tariff tension

But Toomey and many of his fellow Republicans in the Senate are indicating that this time, by targeting our second-largest trading partner, the president has gone too far. 

Last week, Toomey renewed his push for the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, a bill introduced in January that would curb the president's power to make trade decisions through congressional empowerment. 

“The president’s use of tax hikes on Americans as a tool to affect change in Mexican policy is misguided," he said in a new release. "It is past time for Congress to step up and reassert its constitutional responsibility on tariffs."

To add to the fire, there are no real benchmarks set for Mexico to attain to stop these tariffs from taking effect. 

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged that on “Fox News Sunday," saying “we intentionally left the declaration sort of ad hoc,”

“So, there’s no specific target, there’s no specific percentage, but things have to get better,” Mulvaney said. “They have to get dramatically better and they have to get better quickly.”

The new tariffs on Mexican imports along with rising tariffs on all goods coming from China amount to potentially $190 billion a year in new taxes — paid by U.S. importers and typically passed on to consumers, according to The Associated Press.

That means higher prices on fruits and vegetables, cars, electronic components and more. Additionally, companies that export to those countries, especially farmers, can expect China and Mexico to hit back with their own tariffs.

Toomey realizes what that means for an economy that, up to now, has been strong. That's why he wants to pull in the reins on the president, before it's too late.

His legislation would require that any trade actions garner congressional approval. It also has a four-year retroactive window, giving Congress the ability to revoke earlier tariffs, such as those on foreign steel and aluminum.

The bill would give the Department of Defense the job of determining whether products that are being taxed are actually a threat to national security, a job that now falls to the Department of Commerce. The International Trade Commission also would report to Congress on the impact of trade measures.

This makes a lot of sense — and it's good to see Toomey taking a lead in this.