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Republicans slam Trump's tariffs plan

Republicans slam Trump's tariffs plan
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Congressional Republicans slammed President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems add five candidates to ‘Red to Blue’ program White House notifies Russia that no new sanctions are coming: report Senators push HHS to negotiate lower prices on opioid overdose reversal drug MORE’s decision to impose steep tariffs on aluminum and steel imports arguing that the move could kill jobs, damage the U.S. economy and hurt national defense.

Republican lawmakers have been outspoken in trying to convince Trump that he should narrow the tariffs if not outright scrap them over broader concerns that moving forward could spark a global trade war.

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Trump decided to exempt Canada and Mexico, two major allies and leading importers of steel and aluminum, from the sweeping action that will levy 25 percent tariffs on all imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum.

"Today, I am defending America’s national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum," Trump said at the White House.  

He said the domestic steel and aluminum industry has been “ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenators, staffers lament the end of 50 Most Beautiful Republicans refuse to back opioids bill sponsored by vulnerable Dem Overnight Health Care: Rep. Debbie Dingell on the pain and tragedy of the opioids crisis | DEA moves to curb opioid oversupply | Dem says Trump pick opposes VA privatization MORE (R-Utah), who sent a letter to Trump this week, called the move “a tax hike on American manufacturers, workers and consumers.”

“Slapping aluminum and steel imports with tariffs of this magnitude is misguided,” Hatch said.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems: Ryan ‘sole impediment’ to DACA deal The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's Morning Report: Haley clashes with White House MORE (R-Wis.), who has been urging caution on the tariffs, said he is worried Trump's decision will have "unintended consequences."

"We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law," Ryan said.

Since the tariffs will take effect in 15 days, major trading partners and allies such as the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea will have to scramble for an exemption.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyThe Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight Politicians, groups step up tax law messaging for Tax Day Top Ways and Means Republican staffer joining lobbying firm MORE (R-Texas) said while "exempting Canada and Mexico is a good first step, I urge the White House to go further to narrow these tariffs so they hit the intended target, and not U.S. workers, businesses and families."

Many Republicans argue the tariffs won’t do anything to achieve a major objective: curtailing China’s overcapacity of steel.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerDems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report Corker won’t campaign against Democrat running for Tennessee Senate seat MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has recently patched up his relationship with Trump, blasted the president's approach to solving the overcapacity problem.

"A better way to level the playing field for American companies would be to rally our friends and allies to advance a robust, targeted effort to ensure that only those responsible for excess global capacity pay a price," Corker said. 

The United States already has more than 160 duties targeted at specific Chinese steel products.

But problems remain and a glut of global steel has caused prices to drop, hurting U.S. producers.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTax rules will be subject to more OMB review under new memo Ending sex trafficking tomorrow requires preventing child abuse today Doctors bristle at push for opioid prescription limits MORE (R-Ohio), a former U.S. Trade Representative who has expressed support for using the 232 provision (which allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs for national security reasons), said that "action is needed to address the worldwide overcapacity of steel, but I believe we should take a more targeted approach.”

“We should focus on countries that distort markets and repeatedly violate trade laws, and on the steel and aluminum products that are most at risk from a national security perspective," Portman said. 

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Senate repeals auto-loan guidance in precedent-shattering vote Overnight Defense: Lawmakers worry over Syria strategy | Trump's base critical of strikes | Flake undecided on Pompeo | Coast Guard plans to keep allowing transgender members | GOP chair wants to cut B from Pentagon agencies MORE (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, accused Trump of trying to use the tariffs "as an excuse for protectionism" that could harm national defense by raising costs for the military.

"President Trump’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will not protect America,” McCain said.

Instead, McCain said the United States "should confront China's unfair trade practices, including its attempts to circumvent existing antidumping tariffs and its pilfering of American invention and innovation through coercion and outright theft."

Under the tariffs plan, the president will have the discretion to add or subtract countries and raise and lower the tariffs at any time, a senior administration official said.

But Trump seemed set on his plan for now, saying he was eager to hear from other countries about what they would do to earn an exemption from the tariffs.

GOP Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseLonger sentences won’t stop the opioid epidemic Overnight Finance: Trump floats entering Pacific trade pact he once called 'a disaster' | Senators worry over Mulvaney's power at consumer bureau | Battle for CFPB control heads to appeals court | House fails to pass balanced budget amendment Trump to explore entering Pacific trade pact he once called 'a disaster' MORE (Neb.), who has been outspoken about the damage the tariffs could cause, said that the exemptions for Canada and Mexico were a good step but the tariffs could cause an unwanted trade war. 

"We’re on the verge of a painful and stupid trade war, and that’s bad. ... Temporary exceptions for Canada and Mexico are encouraging but bad policy is still bad policy, and these constant [North American Free Trade Agreement] NAFTA threats are nuts," he said in a statement.

Some Republicans argued that the tariffs have the potential of nixing any boost to the economy from the recently implemented tax-cut law.

"While I agree action should be taken to address overcapacity of steel and aluminum ... the proposed tariffs would nullify the positive gains created by the recent tax reform package passed by Congress," said Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsKill off anti-environmental excesses in the farm bill The Hill's 12:30 Report McConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs MORE (R-Kansas), who has urged the president to consider the importance of U.S. agriculture in the tariffs equation. 

Republican leaders said they would continue to lobby the administration to narrow the tariffs and avoid retaliation from around the world. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate blocks bill that opponents say weakens water pollution rules Pittsburgh police told to prepare for protests over potential Mueller firing: report Senate repeals auto-loan guidance in precedent-shattering vote MORE (R-Ky.) said he is concerned about the scope of the proposed tariffs and how they will affect U.S. businesses, consumers and his home state of Kentucky.

The European Union singled out Kentucky bourbon as a possible target for punishment for Trump's tariffs.

"Important questions remain about whether ultimately these tariffs will be sufficiently targeted, tailored and limited," McConnell said.

GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill have spent the past week sending letters and calling the president, urging him to make the tariffs more targeted at the problem with China’s overcapacity of steel.

Rep. Jackie WalorskiJacqueline (Jackie) R. WalorskiCongress must act to ensure access to air medical services GOP authors of tax law double down in campaigns We need more women in STEM — Aviation may be the key MORE (R-Ind.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee that oversees trade matters, said the tariffs remain too broad and will hurt jobs.

“Anything other than a balanced and targeted approach will raise costs for manufacturers, slow our economic momentum and let bad actors like China off the hook,” said Walorski, who also sent Trump a letter earlier this week.

Other Republicans vowed to take action, although it's unclear what, if anything, the GOP-controlled Congress would be willing to do to blunt Trump's tariffs or limit his ability to determine trade policy.

Minutes after the announcement, GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Senate GOP wary of new tax cut sequel GOP Senate hopefuls race to catch up with Dems MORE (Ariz.) said he would be introducing legislation to nullify the tariffs, saying "Congress cannot be complicit as the administration courts economic disaster."

"I will immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs, and I urge my colleagues to pass it before this exercise in protectionism inflicts any more damage on the economy," Flake said in a statement.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKey senators warn Trump of North Korea effort on Syria Rep. Jordan: Action in Syria ‘should be debated in Congress’ Congress has a 'second chance' for bipartisan criminal justice reform MORE (R-Utah) introduced legislation last year that would give Congress oversight over any trade decision, including implementing tariffs.

A spokesman for Lee told The Hill that the Utah Republican “has talked with many of his colleagues about the bill" since the administration first floated the tariffs.

But any bill to rein in or override Trump would be all but guaranteed to draw opposition from the White House. And a likely veto threat would require it to ultimately garner the support of two-thirds of the members in both chambers — a potentially herculean task for a GOP-controlled Congress against a Republican president.