Ryan presses Trump to pull back on tariffs

Ryan presses Trump to pull back on tariffs
© Getty Images - Camille Fine

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE (R-Wis.) is calling on President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE to reconsider his decision to levy steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, making a rare break with the GOP president.

Ryan’s office said that the Speaker has shared his concerns personally with the president “on multiple occasions,” including last week.

“We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokeswoman, said in a statement on Monday. “The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don't want to jeopardize those gains.”

The Speaker’s office also blasted out an email earlier Monday highlighting a news article that attributed a drop in the stock markets to Trump’s tariffs announcement. 

The rare public pushback from Ryan comes as the White House is facing increasing pressure from GOP lawmakers, outside conservative groups and members of the business community to abandon or scale back the contentious tariff proposal, which has not yet been finalized.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyTrump gets recommendation for steep curbs on imported steel, risking trade war Business groups pressing for repeal of ObamaCare employer mandate Watchdog: IRS issued bonuses to employees with conduct issues MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertLawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves Lawmakers call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Dems dominate GOP in cash race for key seats MORE (R-Wash.), chairman of the subcommittee on trade, have drafted a letter to the White House expressing their concerns with the steep tariffs. They are in the process of collecting more signatures, according to a committee aide.

Republicans’ pitch to Trump has largely focused on highlighting their economic concerns, saying the proposed tariffs could send the stock market plunging and erase economic gains from the tax law — two successes that Trump has taken credit for and that GOP lawmakers plan to tout in the upcoming midterm elections.

“The administration and Congress must work together on trade policies that build off the momentum of the president’s tax cuts, which is why any tariffs should be narrow, targeted, and focused on addressing unfairly traded products, without disrupting the flow of fairly traded products for American businesses and consumers,” said a spokeswoman for the Ways and Means Committee.

Congressional leaders are not ruling out taking action to intervene further down the line if the plan moves forward, according to one GOP source.

Trump on Monday signaled he has no intention of changing course despite the pressure from his party.

"No, we're not backing down," Trump told reporters at the White House, adding that the U.S. has been "ripped off" by foreign countries. 

Asked if the move could trigger a global trade war, Trump responded, “I don’t think you’re going to have a trade war.”

Trump said last week that he intends to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports without any exceptions, sparking threats of retaliation from Europe and Canada.  

The conservative Club for Growth separately blasted out an email criticizing the proposal on Monday, saying the import taxes would harm American consumers. 

“The idea of imposing steel or aluminum tariffs of any kind is an affront to economic freedom,” said David McIntosh, group's president.

Trump on Monday dangled the idea of lifting the tariffs if Canada and Mexico cooperate on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — a deal the two countries and the U.S. were renegotiating last week in Mexico City.

"Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed," Trump tweeted Monday, adding, "Mexico must do much more on stopping drugs from pouring into the U.S. They have not done what needs to be done."