Frustrated lawmakers threaten action on tariffs


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Lawmakers are losing patience with the Trump administration’s reliance on tariffs to win trade disputes and are talking increasingly about legislative action to protect U.S. jobs.

A senior Republican senator has threatened legislation to curb President Donald Trump’s trade actions, and other senators joined him Wednesday in promising a complementary bill. Meanwhile, lawmakers are using congressional hearings to put the spotlight on the economic fallout for local farmers and businesses.

The prospects for any votes on trade legislation before the August recess are dim. Still, lawmakers appear to be putting the Trump administration on notice.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that if the administration continues “with its misguided and reckless reliance on tariffs,” he’ll push for legislation. He said he’s discussing options with colleagues now.

Hatch has been a critic of the administration’s imposition of tariffs but has so far focused on working behind the scenes to influence the White House. His speech on the Senate floor served as a pointed warning to the administration not to move forward with tariffs on imported vehicles and auto parts on the grounds that they pose a threat to America’s national security.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., followed his cue. They said the president’s proposed auto tariffs threaten tens of thousands of jobs in the South, where foreign automakers have invested heavily in recent decades.

They announced on the Senate floor Wednesday that they’ll introduce legislation as soon as next week that would freeze the Commerce Department’s investigation into whether auto imports present a national security threat. The bill would halt the Commerce Department probe while the International Trade Commission conducts a study.

Alexander urged Trump to reconsider his trade policy and “drop the tariffs.”

“These tariffs are dangerous. These tariffs are going to cost us jobs. These tariffs are going to lower our family incomes,” Alexander said.

While Jones and Alexander went to bat for auto manufacturers in their state, lawmakers from farm country sought to highlight concerns that retaliatory tariffs will dry up export markets as consumers in China, Europe and other places look elsewhere to buy soybeans, pork and other farm goods.

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