Graham downplays need for bill reining in Trump on tariffs after White House meeting

Graham downplays need for bill reining in Trump on tariffs after White House meeting
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Graham: Flynn should lose security clearance Press needs to restore its credibility on the FBI and Justice Department MORE (S.C.) is signaling that he will not support legislation reining in President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE's authority on tariffs after a closed-door meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

“Now is not the time to undercut President Trump’s ability to negotiate better trade deals. I will not support any efforts that weaken his position," Graham said in a statement.

He added that senators should "give the president the time and ability to achieve his goals.”

Graham didn't specifically mention legislation from GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (Tenn.) in his statement. But his comment seemed intended to signal his opposition to the bill, which would require congressional approval if Trump wants to implement tariffs in the name of national security.

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Graham helped organize a meeting on Wednesday afternoon between Trump and a group of GOP senators on trade. Trump met with a separate set of senators on the issue on Tuesday.

The back-to-back meetings come amid growing frustration among congressional Republicans about Trump's recent actions on trade, which lawmakers worry will roil the economy months before a midterm election.

Republicans have urged Trump to share what his end game is with them amid fears that the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico could lead to retaliatory measures from key trading allies.

Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerEPA signs off on rule exempting farmers from reporting emissions GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk MORE (R-Neb.), who also attended Wednesday's meeting, said she was "encouraged," while Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFive things to know about Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official under fire from Trump Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (R-Iowa) warned Trump to "be careful in dealings or else agriculture is the first to be retaliated against."

Graham added on Wednesday that he is "confident" in Trump's plan, adding that it will "lead us to better trade deals."

In addition to Corker, seven other GOP senators have signed on to legislation requiring congressional approval for tariffs enacted under the national security provisions of the trade law, known as Section 232.

Several other GOP senators have said this week that they are considering the bill, though Corker acknowledged on Wednesday that Republicans could be wary of picking a fight with Trump.

The White House is stepping up its efforts to kill the momentum behind Corker's proposal. Supporters are hoping to attach the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act as soon as this week.

Corker said earlier Wednesday that he had a "lengthy" and "heartfelt" discussion with the president, where Trump urged him not to move forward with the bill.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenators introduce bill to change process to levy national security tariffs Overnight Defense: Pompeo spars with senators at hearing | Trump, Putin meeting won't happen until next year | Pentagon was caught off guard by White House on Syria Andrew Wheeler must reverse damage to American heartland MORE (R-Iowa) told The Washington Post after Wednesday's meeting that Trump reiterated his opposition to Corker's legislation during the White House discussion.

"He’s the president and I think he would like to have powers remain that allows him to negotiate," Ernst said. "So that was kind of his message."