Trump's tariff talk provokes rarely seen urgency among GOP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans in Congress have learned to ignore President Donald Trump's policy whims, knowing whatever he says one day on guns, immigration or other complicated issues could very well change by the next.

But Trump's decision to seek steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has provoked rarely seen urgency among Republicans, now scrambling to convince the president he would spark a trade war that could stall the economy's recent gains if he doesn't reverse course.

The issue pits Trump's populist promises to his voters against the party's free-trade orthodoxy and the interests of business leaders.

Unlike recent immigration and gun-policy changes that require legislation, Trump can alter trade policy by executive action. That intensifies the pressure on Republican lawmakers to change his mind before he gives his final approval for the penalties as early as this coming week.

The president today showed no sign of backing away, threatening on Twitter to impose a tax on cars made in Europe if the European Union responds to the tariffs by taxing American goods. He also railed about "very stupid" trade deals by earlier administrations and said other countries "laugh at what fools our leaders have been. No more!"

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called Trump after the president's surprise announcement, and continues to hope the White House will reconsider the decision. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and others have offered the president their own private counsel. Some are appealing to his desire for a robust stock market and warning the trade penalties could unravel some of the gains they attribute to the tax bill he signed last year.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, tried one of the most direct lines that lawmakers have to the White House: talking to Trump through cable TV news.

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