Flake introduces bill to nullify Trump's tariffs
© Greg Nash

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBernie Sanders to Trump: Firing Mueller 'an impeachable offense' Overnight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation on Monday to nullify President TrumpDonald John TrumpScarborough mocks 'Deflection Don' over transgender troop ban Pelosi condemns Trump's 'cowardly, disgusting' ban on transgender troops Trump moves to ban most transgender people from serving in military MORE’s steel and aluminum tariffs, arguing that the White House is courting “economic disaster.”

“If we enter a trade war, we risk reversing those gains we have made. We in Congress simply can’t be complicit as this administration courts economic disaster in this fashion,” Flake said.

Flake — a frequent Trump critic who is retiring after 2018 — made a wide-reaching pitch to his colleagues from the Senate floor, saying if they are concerned about the tariffs, support free trade or want to continue the recent economic gains then they should support his legislation.

“You can be pro-growth; you can be pro-tariff, but you can’t be both. … I would urge my colleagues to join me in exercising our constitutional oversight and to invalidate these irresponsible tariffs,” he said.

Trump announced late last week that he would slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. Exemptions, he said, would be given to Mexico and Canada as they try to negotiate a larger trade agreement. 

The move has sparked widespread backlash among congressional Republicans, with leadership signaling they will try to narrow the financial penalties.

But any legislation nullifying the tariffs will likely face an uphill climb because, even if it passed, Trump would need to sign the bill.

That could force any proposal to need two-thirds support in both chambers of the Republican-controlled Congress in order to override a potential veto.

Flake, on Monday, appeared to knock the president over his rhetoric, saying trade is sometimes used as a “scapegoat” during campaigns. Trump had taken a hard line on trade agreements during his presidential campaign.

“I understand free trade is sometimes a challenge. I understand that it’s a challenge on the campaign trail, certainly. It’s often easier to point to a shuttered factory and blame trade or immigration or some other convenient scapegoat,” he said.