The U.S. Senate today voted (56-41) to overturn President Joe Biden’s two year pause on new solar tariffs. This comes following a successful House vote (221-202) to repeal the executive action. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) now goes to Biden’s desk where he has already stated he will use his power of veto on the measure. May 16 update: Biden has officially vetoed the measure.
A CRA law allows Congress to reverse federal rules with a simple majority. In June 2022, the Biden Administration announced it would pause for two years any new tariffs related to an AD/CVD circumvention case working its way through the Dept. of Commerce “in order to ensure the U.S. has access to a sufficient supply of solar modules to meet electricity generation needs while domestic manufacturing scales up.”
When the AD/CVD investigation into whether Chinese companies were working in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as a way to skirt existing tariffs against Chinese solar imports first began, solar module supply from the region effectively stopped. The four Southeast Asian countries had previously supplied at least 80% of the solar panels installed in the United States. Biden’s two-year pause allowed modules to continue to be imported without the threat of retroactive duties.
“The U.S. Senate’s attempt to reverse President Biden’s two-year pause on new solar tariffs would derail our clean energy progress,” said George Hershman, CEO of the nation’s largest utility-scale solar contractor, SOLV Energy. “This vote puts tens of thousands of clean energy jobs at risk, could force some U.S. companies to pay billions of dollars in retroactive tariffs, and distracts from our domestic manufacturing gains. President Biden recognized that the solar industry needed a path forward that allowed us to keep workers on the payroll and resume paused projects while domestic manufacturing capacity scales up.”
Once Biden vetoes the measure, a two-thirds majority in both chambers could overpower the veto. It seems unlikely that either chamber will secure the necessary votes.