Readers React: Congress long ago ceded its authority on tariffs to the president. It should take back that power

President Trump signs an executive order levying tariffs on imported steel and aluminum at the White House on March 8.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: The problem with tariffs goes beyond President Trump. Giving Congress the power to levy tariffs was a major reason for writing the U.S. Constitution in the first place. (“Trump just started an unwinnable trade war,” editorial, March 8)

Tariffs are critical tools for any government to employ. They also result in higher prices and, therefore, represent a tax on the people to benefit a special interest group. Whether Trump’s tariffs, or any tariff, will result in more good than harm is debatable, which is exactly why the Constitution gave Congress the exclusive power to do exactly that — debate them and pursue consensus before applying them.

Sadly, over the last several decades, Congress has ceded this power in bits and pieces to the president. That is wrong. A tax on the people should not be subject to the whim of one person.

Congress needs to reclaim this power and do its job. Furthermore, legal scholars should challenge the various acts of Congress that ceded tariff power to the president.


Dan Shiells, Santa Barbara

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