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 TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland 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 Lee2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up 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 FlakeBiden endorses first Latina attorney general candidate in Arizona Primary challenge to Trump? It could help him in 2020 Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBusinesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill Senate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report When it comes to drone tech, wildfire officials need the rights tools for the job MORE (Colo.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SassePrimary challenge to Trump? It could help him in 2020 Pollster: Attitudes toward Trump's farm aid are 'highly wrapped up' in feelings toward president Poll: Majority of Americans support Trump's plan to offer aid to farmers hit by tariffs 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 McConnell15 senators miss votes despite McConnell's criticism of absentees Overnight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Dem senator introduces proposal to rein in Trump on security clearances 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.”