McConnell denounces Trump's plan for tariffs on imported aluminum and steel

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally broke his silence Tuesday and denounced President Donald Trump's threa...

Posted: Mar 6, 2018 6:31 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 6:31 PM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally broke his silence Tuesday and denounced President Donald Trump's threat to place controversial tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, saying he has "genuine concerns" that it could trigger a trade war.

The majority leader's first public comments on the issue -- which has dominated headlines since it was announced Thursday -- came on the heels of a torrent of unusually blunt criticism from other GOP leaders and top committee chairmen, who spoke out against the retaliatory trade move immediately after Trump announced it last Thursday and every day since.

"There is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into a larger trade war," McConnell told reporters when asked at a news conference about the tariffs, which generally are considered against GOP free-trade orthodoxy. "Many of our members are discussing with the administration just how broad, how sweeping this might be, and there is a high level of concern about interfering with what appears to be an economy that is taking off."

Top economic adviser Gary Cohn leaves White House in wake of tariff rift

McConnell also defended the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has vowed to drastically change, saying it has been a "big winner" for his home state of Kentucky.

"I would just say from a Kentucky point of view, NAFTA has been a big winner," McConnell said. "We have benefited from it in every way. So I think the best way to characterize where most Republican senators are right now, including myself, is genuine concern that this not escalate into something much broader."

His staff wouldn't explain why he hadn't spoken out earlier but disputed the notion that he was late to engage in the debate. One aide suggested McConnell's weekly Tuesday news conference was his first opportunity to make his views known, even though the leader has many other forums available to him, including his nearly daily speech on the Senate floor, when he typically talks about matters before Congress and in the news.

McConnell spent much of the past few days -- in the weekly leadership meeting and in Tuesday's closed-door policy lunch -- gathering views from the unsettled members of his conference. He also attempted to get more information on the tariff proposal, which White House officials acknowledge publicly -- and, sources say, repeatedly in private to concerned lawmakers and aides -- remains far from complete or fully fleshed out.

"There's merit to not jumping the gun on this proposal given the guy who sits in the Oval Office," one Republican senator told CNN on Tuesday, noting that Trump can shift and vacillate on policies "depending on the day or who he spoke to last." The senator also pointed to what he called "an active effort" by White House aides opposed to tariffs to work behind the scenes to move the President off his position, one lawmakers have joined in both public statements and in private.

McConnell's caution may stem in part from hope that in the end Trump won't carry out his threat and will find another way to resolve his concerns about unfair trade.

"I think we need to wait and see what the White House finally decides to do on this," the majority leader said.

McConnell has a reputation as a disciplined politician who may prefer quieter, backdoor efforts to change Trump's mind instead of engaging in an open spat with the President, famous for his Twitter tirades. The senator's aides wouldn't specify what he's been doing to counter Trump's efforts but suggested he's done more behind the scenes than has been visible publicly.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117617

Reported Deaths: 3302
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds8011179
DeSoto721079
Harrison539884
Jackson469387
Rankin401686
Madison384394
Lee364082
Forrest309478
Jones296184
Washington260399
Lafayette253143
Lauderdale2499135
Lamar229138
Oktibbeha203755
Bolivar202877
Neshoba1861111
Lowndes181262
Panola170640
Leflore169188
Sunflower164049
Warren156056
Monroe153073
Pontotoc149020
Marshall147330
Lincoln142959
Pike140456
Copiah138736
Scott126229
Coahoma125537
Yazoo122734
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Simpson122349
Union119725
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Holmes114960
Adams109344
Prentiss108320
Wayne102722
Alcorn102112
George101419
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Marion95443
Tippah93123
Newton86827
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Hancock85928
Tallahatchie84626
Winston84621
Tishomingo82241
Attala80526
Clarke76353
Clay70522
Jasper69217
Walthall64127
Calhoun62713
Noxubee60117
Smith59816
Yalobusha55614
Montgomery55423
Claiborne53916
Tunica53617
Lawrence53414
Perry51223
Carroll49712
Stone48614
Greene47918
Humphreys44916
Amite42713
Quitman4216
Jefferson Davis41711
Webster37813
Benton3608
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32715
Sharkey28715
Jefferson27710
Franklin2483
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 160380

Reported Deaths: 2713
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23573377
Mobile16994316
Tuscaloosa10462140
Montgomery10352198
Madison942298
Shelby750465
Baldwin671269
Lee657165
Calhoun464761
Marshall442651
Etowah434151
Morgan422335
Houston419334
DeKalb349228
Elmore324653
St. Clair304042
Limestone293631
Walker283793
Talladega271437
Cullman255725
Lauderdale233842
Jackson219417
Autauga208231
Franklin206432
Colbert206032
Blount197225
Russell19603
Chilton190432
Dallas188127
Coffee180711
Dale178952
Covington175929
Escambia174931
Chambers136847
Clarke136617
Pike134514
Tallapoosa133987
Marion110331
Barbour10429
Marengo102622
Butler101241
Winston94013
Geneva9217
Lawrence86933
Pickens86918
Bibb85015
Randolph83516
Hale77730
Cherokee75614
Clay75312
Washington75112
Henry7236
Lowndes71628
Monroe65510
Bullock65017
Crenshaw60930
Perry5956
Fayette58913
Cleburne5739
Wilcox57012
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Macon53920
Lamar5085
Sumter47421
Choctaw39312
Greene34616
Coosa2093
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