GOP senators eye their options against Trump on tariffs

Senate Republicans return to Washington Monday and face a choice: Are they willing to take action on trade against th...

Posted: Jun 5, 2018 11:39 AM
Updated: Jun 5, 2018 11:39 AM

Senate Republicans return to Washington Monday and face a choice: Are they willing to take action on trade against the President from their own party?

The Trump administration shocked lawmakers last week when it announced it would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from US allies in the European Union, Canada and Mexico, a move that Republicans have tried publicly and privately for months to discourage.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber as majority whip, told reporters Monday that he doesn't believe Congress will take any action to roll back the President's ability to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel even after warnings from GOP lawmakers last week.

"I think that is primarily an executive branch function, and I don't really see Congress passing and getting a presidential signature on something constraining his authority," the Texas Republican said. "I hope we can just have a good discussion and come together on a consensus position."

On Saturday, retiring Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker tweeted that he was working with "like-minded" senators on the issue, but whether there will be a large enough coalition to force a change isn't clear yet.

"I am working with like-minded Republican senators on ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies. Will Democrats join us?" tweeted Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

On Monday, Corker told CNN "we seem to want to punish our allies and befriend our enemies."

Asked if he had spoken to Corker yet about his plans, Cornyn said, "I haven't had a chance to, but I will." He also said that congressional Republicans will continue talking to the administration about the issue to help describe "what is possible and what would gain the political support that is necessary."

"The aluminum and steel tariffs are unpopular because of the retaliation that can come against other sectors of our economy, like agriculture," Cornyn said. "It's kind of an unguided missile."

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, doesn't see Congress tackling legislation to roll back Trump's authority on tariffs.

"I don't see any likely legislative remedy that the President would agree to, so why would we want to waste our time on a legislative solution where hopefully the collective persuasive efforts at the White House will get us in a different direction?" Blunt asked.

He added, "I think the President thinks that he is a better negotiator than we are, and he may turn out to be right. He's headed toward a final product which hopefully will not look like the current environment."

RELATED: Trump's trade moves create midterm headache for Republicans

The fear among Republicans is that new tariffs could raise the cost of consumer goods in an election year and overshadow an otherwise strong economy.

"I hope we pull back from the brink here because these tariffs will not be good for the economy, and I worry that it will slow, if not impeded significantly, the progress we were making economically for the country," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during an event in Kentucky last week.

But, confronting Trump -- especially just months ahead of the midterms -- carries its own risks. So far, Republican leaders -- including McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch -- have all sounded the alarm, but there's little evidence that they'd swiftly move legislation to roll back the trade authority of the administration.

"This is a big mistake," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, summing up GOP opposition to Trump's tariffs.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican who hails from the agriculture-heavy state of Iowa, told reporters Monday there were questions surrounding whether these specific tariffs would improve national security, a rationale Trump has cited for the tariffs and that Canada's finance minister described as "absurd."

"The question is, is he using it for legitimate national security purposes?" said Grassley, who chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. "And I'm sure he feels he is. But I think there is some question about that."

Asked if the tariffs were concerning, Grassley responded, "I would want a President to try to get us a better deal if he could on trade. But I'm also nervous because I've seen (Jimmy) Carter and (Ronald) Reagan and George W. Bush put such tariffs on and then when there is retaliation, it's against agriculture and that's very concerning to me."

This story has been updated.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319381

Reported Deaths: 7354
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22264265
Hinds20634421
Harrison18381316
Rankin13862282
Jackson13677248
Madison10234224
Lee10050176
Jones8458167
Forrest7821153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6498149
Lamar633688
Lafayette6298120
Washington5418136
Bolivar4835133
Panola4663110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4597146
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc424973
Monroe4155135
Union415576
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4007111
Hancock386087
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3366110
Alcorn324172
Scott319374
Yazoo314171
Itawamba305077
Adams304885
Copiah299766
Coahoma298383
Simpson298189
Tippah291568
Prentiss283561
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267083
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George251951
Newton248563
Tishomingo231267
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210459
Holmes190374
Clay187554
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135247
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite126142
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica108027
Jefferson Davis107833
Claiborne103030
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96628
Franklin85023
Quitman81816
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 547873

Reported Deaths: 11274
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809141565
Mobile41984826
Madison35629523
Tuscaloosa26147458
Shelby25580254
Montgomery25075611
Baldwin21805313
Lee16248175
Calhoun14710325
Morgan14618285
Etowah14160362
Marshall12446230
Houston10757288
Elmore10292212
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10155250
Cullman9928200
Lauderdale9591248
DeKalb8963189
Talladega8455184
Walker7330280
Autauga7229113
Blount6937139
Jackson6905113
Colbert6406139
Coffee5622126
Dale4929114
Russell454541
Chilton4470116
Franklin430783
Covington4267122
Tallapoosa4127154
Escambia401180
Chambers3723123
Dallas3606156
Clarke352861
Marion3237106
Pike313978
Lawrence3124100
Winston283272
Bibb267664
Geneva257081
Marengo250665
Pickens236662
Barbour234559
Hale226678
Butler223771
Fayette217762
Henry193743
Cherokee187245
Randolph186944
Monroe179141
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155157
Cleburne153144
Lamar146237
Lowndes142053
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113230
Coosa111429
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
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