Graham downplays need for bill reining in Trump on tariffs after White House meeting

Graham downplays need for bill reining in Trump on tariffs after White House meeting
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHouse Armed Services panel gets classified briefing on Saudi attacks America's newest comedy troupe: House GOP GOP group hits Pence over Trump alleged business conflicts MORE (S.C.) is signaling that he will not support legislation reining in President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE's authority on tariffs after a closed-door meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

“Now is not the time to undercut President Trump’s ability to negotiate better trade deals. I will not support any efforts that weaken his position," Graham said in a statement.

He added that senators should "give the president the time and ability to achieve his goals.”

Graham didn't specifically mention legislation from GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (Tenn.) in his statement. But his comment seemed intended to signal his opposition to the bill, which would require congressional approval if Trump wants to implement tariffs in the name of national security.

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Graham helped organize a meeting on Wednesday afternoon between Trump and a group of GOP senators on trade. Trump met with a separate set of senators on the issue on Tuesday.

The back-to-back meetings come amid growing frustration among congressional Republicans about Trump's recent actions on trade, which lawmakers worry will roil the economy months before a midterm election.

Republicans have urged Trump to share what his end game is with them amid fears that the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico could lead to retaliatory measures from key trading allies.

Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerStatue of Chief Standing Bear to be unveiled in Capitol The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow MORE (R-Neb.), who also attended Wednesday's meeting, said she was "encouraged," while Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa) warned Trump to "be careful in dealings or else agriculture is the first to be retaliated against."

Graham added on Wednesday that he is "confident" in Trump's plan, adding that it will "lead us to better trade deals."

In addition to Corker, seven other GOP senators have signed on to legislation requiring congressional approval for tariffs enacted under the national security provisions of the trade law, known as Section 232.

Several other GOP senators have said this week that they are considering the bill, though Corker acknowledged on Wednesday that Republicans could be wary of picking a fight with Trump.

The White House is stepping up its efforts to kill the momentum behind Corker's proposal. Supporters are hoping to attach the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act as soon as this week.

Corker said earlier Wednesday that he had a "lengthy" and "heartfelt" discussion with the president, where Trump urged him not to move forward with the bill.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections MORE (R-Iowa) told The Washington Post after Wednesday's meeting that Trump reiterated his opposition to Corker's legislation during the White House discussion.

"He’s the president and I think he would like to have powers remain that allows him to negotiate," Ernst said. "So that was kind of his message."