The US Court of International Trade on Monday upheld the Trump administration’s tariffs on imported steel for national security reasons.
The decision imposing tariffs was challenged by the American Institute for International Steel (AIIS), a group of steel importers, as unconstitutional. Specifically, they claimed that Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 violates a constitutional prohibition against transfer of powers.
The three-judge based their decision on a 1976 US Supreme Court ruling in Federal Energy Administration v. Algonquin SNG Inc., where the court stated that “section 232’s standards are “clearly sufficient to meet any delegation doctrine attack.” Judge Gary Katzmann’s separate dubitante opinion agreed that precedent in Algonquin required their finding in the present case, but he felt that the Supreme Court ruling in Algonquin was dubious given the years that had since past and stated as much:
The question before us may be framed as follows: Does section 232, in violation of the separation of powers, transfer to the President, in his virtually unbridled discretion, the power to impose taxes and duties that is fundamentally reserved to Congress by the Constitution? My colleagues, relying largely on a 1976 Supreme Court decision, conclude that the statute passes constitutional muster. While acknowledging the binding force of that decision, with the benefit of the fullness of time and the clarifying understanding borne of recent actions, I have grave doubts. I write, respectfully, to set forth my concerns.
AIIS, in referencing Katzmann’s opinion regarding section 232 as a violation of separation of powers, has already promised to appeal the ruling.