Congress, if they wish, can spend the next two to six years putting out the fires that result. Hopefully, they will demonstrate they have the spine to do at least that. But for Congress to spend their time chasing the president’s trade moves—responding to each ad hoc tariff attack with an equal and opposite reaction of their own—would only solve part of the problem. The bigger issue is the economic anxiety the president invites each time he flails his tariff weapons around, the market instability that results when he does so incessantly, and the damage it does to our diplomatic relations each time the president shows that America cannot be counted on to honor its agreements.
If they wish to address these issues, Congress should act proactively: not just pledging to oppose future irresponsible trade actions from the White House, but actually moving to restrict the White House’s power to set U.S. trade policy by decree. This is, after all, a power vested by the Constitution in the Congress. Re-asserting this prerogative would require no great act of creativity: Sen. Mike Lee has already introduced a bill that would require Congress to sign off on any new trade barrier the White House wanted to put in place.
But does Congress actually want to commit to such a solution? Or would they rather continue to wag their heads when Trump throws around tariff threats, hoping to wheedle him into sparing them a tough vote at some point down the road.