McConnell opens door to tariff legislation
© Greg Nash

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats slide in battle for Senate McConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Pelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday appeared to open the door to the Senate taking up tariff legislation, noting there is "concern" among fellow GOP senators over President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE's trade policies.

"There is concern in the conference. ... We've all, you know, discussed this with the president a lot. And there may be a legislative solution to it, and Orrin is working on that and I'll take a look at it," McConnell said during a Politico Playbook event, referring to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Congress should work with Trump and not 'cowboy' on Saudi Arabia, says GOP senator US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (R-Utah). 
 
McConnell added that the panel is "going to take a look at that whole area, which is a matter of some concern to my members."
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There is growing unease among congressional Republicans over the Trump administration's tariff policies, which are prompting retaliatory actions from key trading partners. This week's decision by Harley-Davidson to move some manufacturing overseas to avoid European tariffs has renewed the fight between GOP lawmakers and Trump.

Hatch told The Hill on Tuesday that he would move legislation in the Finance Committee tied to tariffs implemented under the national security provisions of the trade law, known as Section 232. But he stressed that the details of the bill were still being worked out.
 
 
For months, Republicans have publicly pleaded for Trump to back down from his tariff fight, worrying it will roil the economy heading into the midterm elections in November.
 
But McConnell said earlier this month that there was "not much" Congress could do legislatively on tariffs. He also pledged during a Fox News interview that the Senate would not pass legislation to rein in Trump on tariffs.

"We're not going to be, in the Senate, passing a bill preventing the president from what he can legally do under current law," McConnell told Fox News on June 6.

When pressed if Republicans would be able to move Trump on the issue, McConnell on Wednesday said that he believed Trump is "pragmatic" and "at some point here will figure out whether this is working or not working and do the right thing for the country."
 
But Trump's recent trade moves have reinvigorated congressional skeptics of his tariff decisions. GOP senators debated during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday if they would hold a vote on tariff legislation as an amendment to a mammoth farm bill.
 
That amendment, offered by Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Trump in a corner on Saudi Arabia Corker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE (R-Tenn.), would require congressional approval if the president wanted to implement tariffs in the name of national security. Republicans blocked Corker from getting a vote on a similar amendment during the Senate's debate on a massive defense policy bill earlier this month.
 
McConnell on Wednesday said he didn't know if the Corker amendment would get a vote as part of the farm bill debate, but he argued Republicans should have a policy of not blocking each other from getting votes on amendments.
 
"The farm bill is open for amendments," he said. "I simply don't know whether there's going to be a vote on the Corker proposal. I don't object to having the vote."