Ryan: Congress Won’t Pass Tariff Legislation Trump Wouldn’t Sign

Speaker won’t definitively say deadline to complete NAFTA review has passed

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., agreed with Rep. Trey Gowdy that the FBI acted properly using an informant on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign to track possible Russian interference in the election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Wednesday signaled there’s no chance Congress will pass legislation to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to impose tariffs, despite Republican lawmakers disagreeing with recent actions the president has taken against U.S. allies.

“You’d have to pass a [bill] that he would want to sign into law and that would be what it would take,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters. “And you can do the math on that.”

If Congress were to pass legislation that Trump decided to veto, lawmakers still have the power to override the president with a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber. The math on that would depend on exactly what the legislation did but it’s not inconceivable that two-thirds of the House and Senate would support legislation to limit the president’s ability to impose tariffs.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is pushing to include a provision in the Senate defense authorization bill that would require a congressional vote on tariffs levied by the president on the basis of national security before the tariffs can be implemented.

Watch: Reining In Tariffs Requires Passing a Bill the President Would Sign Into Law, Ryan Says

When the Trump administration announced last week that it would move forward with plans to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, Ryan issued a statement saying he disagreed with the decision.

“Instead of addressing the real problems in the international trade of these products, today’s action targets America’s allies when we should be working with them to address the unfair trading practices of countries like China,” Ryan said last week. “There are better ways to help American workers and consumers. I intend to keep working with the president on those better options.”

Several other Republican lawmakers expressed similar sentiments.

The EU Wednesday published a list of U.S. imports that will face additional tariffs beginning in July including Harley-Davidson motorbikes, jeans and bourbon in retaliation for the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariffs on EU steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum. Mexico published a similar list Tuesday.

The Trump administration’s tariff decision comes as the United States is locked in contentious negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

As those negotiations struggle to come to a close, Ryan declined to say definitively that Congress would not be able to review any new agreement reached before the end of the year. Ryan said in early May that an agreement had to be sent to Congress by May 17 for it to meet the review timelines set out in the Trade Promotion Authority law.

“We’re pretty far into the deadline,” the speaker said, but noted he can’t make a definitive declaration because the International Trade Commission has to review any agreement and he can’t speak to how long that would take.

“I think we’re down the road and unless the ITC says they don’t need as much time and they can do it within the timeline to get it on the floor in December — that’s what it would take to do that,” Ryan said.