Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs

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The Senate on Wednesday took a symbolic shot at President Trump’s trade policy amid anxiety on Capitol Hill over his tariff strategy.

Senators voted 88-11 to instruct lawmakers hashing out a deal on a government funding bill to include language “providing a role for Congress” on tariffs implemented for national security reasons, known as Section 232 of the trade laws.

{mosads}The vote is nonbinding, meaning lawmakers don’t have to add trade language into the funding bill. But the vote margin, with more senators supporting it than the amount needed to override a veto, underscores the depth of concern on Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s significant that, as many of us have discussed with the president and his Cabinet, that there’s some anxiety about … tariffs,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill. “I think it’s just a way to make that point.”

Trump’s trade policies have sparked backlash from lawmakers.

The president used Section 232 to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, including slapping the financial penalties on key trading allies like the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

But Republicans have been wary of using legislation to push back against Trump months before the midterm elections.

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) tried to attach legislation requiring congressional approval for tariffs applied for national security reasons to both a defense policy bill and the farm bill, but was blocked both times.

Corker said after the vote that he would keep pressing for the Senate to pass stand-alone legislation on Trump’s tariff authority. 

“I believe support for our legislation will only grow. We will continue to push for a binding vote and are hopeful one will be scheduled in the near future,” Corker said in a statement. 

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — who was opposing Trump’s appeals court judges over the tariff fight — added that Congress has “to rein in abuse of presidential authority and restore Congress’ constitutional authority in this regard.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has said he will bring up tariff legislation in the committee. Some GOP senators on the panel have voiced support for narrowing Section 232 of the trade law.

Trump allies have warned lawmakers from passing legislation, arguing it would undercut the president’s negotiating ability.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) knocked senators shortly before the vote, saying they were tying Trump’s hands.

“I just don’t understand why this body continues to try to tie the hands of this president at every turn,” he said. “This president is committed to creating a more level playing field for our workers and our companies here at home to compete.” 

Perdue was one of 11 Republican senators who voted no. GOP Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Jim Risch (Idaho) and Tim Scott (S.C.) also voted no. 

Updated at 1:41 p.m.

Tags Bob Corker Dean Heller Donald Trump Jim Inhofe Jim Risch John Barrasso John Cornyn Lindsey Graham Mike Crapo Mike Enzi Orrin Hatch Shelley Moore Capito Tim Scott

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