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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

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Confirmed Cases: 66646

Reported Deaths: 1874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5599118
DeSoto363230
Harrison249836
Madison241464
Rankin227633
Jackson226942
Jones188558
Forrest177856
Washington164641
Lee142839
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Lamar120214
Oktibbeha111838
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Warren108932
Lowndes107437
Panola105412
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Scott99820
Lafayette96416
Copiah95028
Pike92836
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Holmes89048
Grenada84321
Yazoo82912
Pontotoc8218
Lincoln80941
Simpson79530
Leake78625
Monroe77853
Wayne76421
Coahoma74312
Tate72028
Marshall6889
Marion65720
Union62716
Winston62016
Adams61725
Covington61213
George5595
Newton54211
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Tallahatchie53010
Attala52125
Walthall49819
Chickasaw45920
Noxubee45311
Alcorn4195
Calhoun4179
Prentiss41710
Tishomingo4095
Claiborne40413
Smith40413
Clay39413
Hancock38814
Jasper3879
Tippah36013
Itawamba35810
Tunica3337
Clarke32625
Montgomery3213
Lawrence3197
Yalobusha31310
Humphreys29111
Quitman2621
Carroll26111
Greene24111
Kemper23214
Perry2327
Jefferson Davis2316
Amite2306
Webster22812
Wilkinson20513
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1957
Stone1944
Benton1431
Choctaw1334
Franklin1242
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12969243
Mobile9836206
Montgomery6609148
Madison531433
Tuscaloosa419073
Unassigned356061
Baldwin350224
Shelby326035
Marshall313035
Lee266045
Morgan236918
Etowah210431
DeKalb179813
Calhoun176113
Elmore171538
Walker152064
Houston138612
Russell13582
St. Clair132817
Dallas131823
Limestone131813
Franklin127020
Cullman122012
Colbert117113
Lauderdale115717
Autauga108621
Escambia107516
Talladega100913
Jackson9684
Tallapoosa85479
Chambers84038
Dale82723
Blount7884
Chilton7886
Butler75836
Coffee7566
Covington73420
Pike7037
Clarke6629
Barbour5735
Lowndes57124
Marion57024
Marengo55315
Hale47326
Bullock46311
Winston45011
Perry4404
Bibb4265
Wilcox42610
Monroe4194
Randolph39610
Pickens3929
Conecuh38810
Washington38612
Sumter36018
Lawrence3481
Macon33414
Crenshaw3143
Choctaw28112
Cherokee2707
Henry2593
Geneva2570
Clay2525
Greene25011
Lamar2202
Fayette2045
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