Hill Awards Golden Fleece Award to the Department of Commerce for Mishandling Tariff Exclusion Requests

Rep. French Hill (AR-02) named the Department of Commerce as the latest recipient of the Golden Fleece Award for not giving American businesses a meaningful opportunity to appeal burdensome tariffs. According to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Department of Commerce rejected 19,000 exclusion requests due to submission errors. Commerce officials have not clarified what caused these submission errors, which has impacted thousands of businesses in the U.S. In addition, according to the report, Commerce has not met timeliness guidelines for 96% of exclusion requests with objections. 

“By failing to provide adequate measures for businesses seeking to avoid Section 232 tariffs, the Department of Commerce has failed to assist these companies and has consequently hurt the American economy,” said Rep. Hill. “Commerce officials must be more transparent in the information they require for exclusion requests, and they must also respond to business exclusion requests in a more timely manner to ensure that future transactions are fair to all businesses who submit these requests.”

In the letter to Secretary of the Department of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, Rep. Hill wrote:


The Honorable Wilbur Ross 


U.S. Department of Commerce 

1401 Constitution Ave NW 

Washington, DC 20230-0001 

Dear Secretary Ross: 

I write today to inform you that your agency is the most recent recipient of my Golden Fleece Award. I am awarding the Golden Fleece to the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) for having a deficient exclusion request process for businesses requesting to be excluded from having to pay Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs (Section 232 tariffs). 

According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), of the 106,000 Section 232 tariff exclusion requests received, Commerce “rejected over 19,000 of them prior to decision due to incorrect or incomplete information. Although rejections may delay relief for requesters and can increase work for Commerce, the agency has not identified, analyzed, or taken steps to fully address the causes of these submission errors." 

Further, “Commerce did not meet timeliness guidelines for approximately 79 percent of steel and 72 percent of aluminum requests,” and “[n]inety-six percent of exclusion requests with objections did not meet timeliness guidelines compared with 75 percent of exclusion requests without objections." 

In addition to the deficiencies in the exclusion requests process, the GAO was “unable to determine whether Commerce conducted any regular reviews of the tariffs' impacts, and agency officials were unable to produce documentation containing the results of any reviews."

It is unacceptable that Commerce did not have adequate measures to ensure companies that were negatively impacted by the Section 232 tariffs received timely or consistent decisions for their exclusion requests. Further, Commerce's lack of adequate reporting on the economic impact of these tariffs is concerning. This inadequacy demonstrates how the administration's economic decisions impact American companies, including those in Arkansas, without fully understanding the potential negative or even positive impacts those policies may have on the American economy. I encourage Commerce to implement GAO's recommendations and ensure that future tariff exclusion processes are fair and transparent. 

Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns, I urge you to notify us as soon as possible. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue. 

French Hill
Member of Congress

To view the letter, click HERE

About the Golden Fleece Award

Every year, Congress appropriates trillions of dollars to fund the federal government, and every year the federal government wastes portions of these funds in unconscionable ways. In an attempt to increase accountability for every single government program, Congressman Hill decided to bring back the Golden Fleece Award.

Originally introduced by Democratic U.S. Senator from Wisconsin William Proxmire in March 1975, the Golden Fleece Award was a monthly bulletin on the most frivolous and wasteful uses of hardworking taxpayers’ dollars. The Golden Fleece Award became a staple in the U.S. Senate during this time, and Senator Robert Byrd once stated that the awards were “as much a part of the Senate as quorum calls and filibusters.

In reviving this idea, the Golden Fleece Award will again have the opportunity to serve as an important reminder to taxpayers about the need for necessary, commonsense reforms to our federal spending.

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