Corker rebukes Republicans afraid to anger Trump on tariffs: 'We might poke the bear!'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerHas Congress captured Russia policy? Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) ripped his GOP colleagues on Tuesday, asserting they are afraid to vote on his tariff legislation because it could provoke backlash from President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE

"'Gosh, we might poke the bear!' That is the language I've been hearing in the hallways. 'We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment,'" Corker said during a heated speech where he was yelling from the Senate floor.

He added that the Senate is "becoming a body where, well, we'll do what we can do, but my gosh, if the president gets upset with us, then we might not be in the majority, and so let's don't do anything that might upset the president."

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Corker's floor speech comes as he has tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to get a vote on his legislation requiring congressional approval for tariffs enacted for reasons of national security amid broader scrutiny of Trump's recent trade moves.

The Tennessee Republican has pushed for a vote on the measure as part of the Senate's debate on the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Though GOP lawmakers have publicly fretted over Trump's tariff policies, GOP leadership has shown little interest in formally pushing back against the president. 

Corker said on Tuesday he believes nearly all of his GOP colleagues agree with his legislation, but "politics" is blocking him from getting a vote.

"I heard the senator from Texas, the senior senator from Texas, saying the other day, well, gosh, we might upset the president. We might upset the president of the United States before the midterms," Corker said, referring to Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSupreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (R-Texas).