GOP senator to back bill to 'rein in' Trump's trade authority

GOP senator to back bill to 'rein in' Trump's trade authority
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (Pa.) on Friday announced that he would back legislation to rein in President TrumpDonald John Trump20 weeks out from midterms, Dems and GOP brace for surprises Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Kim Jong Un to visit Beijing this week MORE's trade authority, underscoring growing GOP frustration with the administration's recent policy decisions.

“Congress should assert its constitutional responsibility and lead on trade policy so Americans keep access to affordable goods and services, and the opportunity to sell our products abroad,” Toomey said in a string of tweets explaining his decision to support Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril Senate passes 6B defense bill This week: House GOP caught in immigration limbo MORE's (R-Utah) bill.

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The Trump administration on Thursday announced it would place steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico, ending the temporary exemptions for the key trading allies despite their two months of lobbying to avoid the tariffs.

Toomey said that implementing the tariffs under the guise of national security “weakens our credibility.”  

“Claiming steel bought from our allies is a ‘national security’ threat weakens our credibility. These tariffs, i.e. taxes, hurt American workers, employers, and consumers,” Toomey tweeted Friday.

He added that Lee's legislation would "rein in" Trump's ability to impose similar tariffs.  

If passed, the bill would require congressional approval for Trump’s trade actions, including tariffs.

Aside from Toomey and Lee, three GOP senators are officially backing the legislation: Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSenate chaplain offers prayer 'as children are being separated from their parents' Romney backs Laura Bush on border: 'We need a more compassionate answer' Mark Sanford’s troubles did not begin with Trump MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSessions floats federal law that would protect states that decriminalize marijuana RNC mum on whether it will support Trump-backed Corey Stewart Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight MORE (Colo.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSasse: Trump should end 'wicked' family separation policy Frequent Trump critic touts president: Trump's rhetoric on free trade at G-7 is 'tremendous news' Overnight Defense: Trump draws ire for wanting Russia back in G-7 | Movement on defense bills expected next week | Air Force grounds B-1 fleet over safety issue MORE (Neb.).

Republican senators have publicly fretted for months that Trump's trade policies would spark retaliation from other countries. 

Trump's recent moves, including exploring separate tariffs on imported autos, have poured fuel on the tensions between Trump and GOP lawmakers, who have fundamentally different approaches to trade.

Republicans have also been upfront about the fact that they are worried Trump's trade moves could roil the economy months before a midterm election, undoing what they view as a boost from last year's tax bill.

“If this devolves into a full-blown trade war, the resulting harm will undo all of the great economic progress we’ve made with deregulation and tax reform,” Toomey added Friday.

Toomey’s support could represent a major get for Lee’s legislation. The GOP senator is considered to be within the mainstream of the Senate Republican caucuses’ thinking on financial issues and he helped craft a deal that paved the way for last year's tax bill.

Asked last week about Toomey’s assertion that tariffs on imported autos were a “bad idea,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 6B defense bill Poll: Kim Jong Un has higher approval among Republicans than Pelosi The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix MORE (R-Ky.) noted that he normally agrees with the Pennsylvania senator on the issue.  

“I tend to agree with Toomey on that. I hope we can avoid getting into any kind of tariff situation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News. “I think all of us are hoping that all of this back and forth discussion about trade doesn’t end up leading into the implementation of tariffs or some larger trade war.”