Harley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy

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Harley-Davidson’s announcement that it is moving some production overseas to avoid European tariffs coupled with triple-digit drops on Wall Street are raising pressure on lawmakers to do something about President Trump’s trade war.

The European Union began imposing new tariffs on American goods on Friday, targeting Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson with a 31 percent tariff.

{mosads}To escape those tariffs, the iconic U.S. company said it would shift some production to Europe.

A spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said it’s “further proof of the harm from unilateral tariffs.”

“The best way to help American workers, consumers and manufacturers is to open new markets for them, not to raise barriers to our own market,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

Trump responded to the news later on Monday, criticizing Harley-Davidson for moving production.

“Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag,” Trump tweeted. “I fought hard for them and ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U., which has hurt us badly on trade, down $151 Billion. Taxes just a Harley excuse — be patient! #MAGA.”

Markets plunged Monday as Wall Street feared a growing fight. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 328 points for the day.

Senate Republicans, who have been repeatedly frustrated by Trump’s saber-rattling on trade but have been unwilling to confront him on the issue, are talking about a new effort to rein in Trump’s powers.

Key Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are voicing support for legislation yet to be drafted that would narrow Trump’s ability to invoke national security concerns as authority to impose new tariffs, according to sources familiar with the internal discussions.

A similar effort led by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) failed earlier this month, but this time GOP lawmakers are taking a more measured approach, the sources said.

While Corker’s bill would have taken away Trump’s authority to impose tariffs on imports based on national security and given it to Congress, the new proposal would just limit the president’s authority under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act without giving new powers to Congress.

It’s not clear exactly how Congress would seek to limit the authority.

One possibility, according to Vanessa Sciarra, vice president of legal affairs and trade policy at the National Foreign Trade Council, would be for Congress to define the interests of national security more narrowly.

She said the definition of national security in the Trade Expansion Act is “broad enough to drive a truck through” because it was drafted at the height of the Cold War, when Congress wanted to give the president broad discretion.

“You could narrow the definition to say just military preparedness,” she said, which could make it harder for a president to use.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has a bill that would reset the U.S. tariff schedule for Mexico, Canada and the European Union, in effect declaring tariff proclamations against those countries null and void.

But that approach doesn’t have much support among Republicans.

Trump invoked national security to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from around the world, and has threatened to use the same statute to justify tariffs on imports of foreign cars.

Critics have argued there were no national security reasons that justified the metal tariffs and that using Section 232 to impose tariffs on car imports because of national security would be a stretch.

A senior Republican aide said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) “has been talking to like-minded members” on possible legislation and has not ruled out backing a measure that would modify Trump’s authority under Section 232.

Finance held a contentious hearing last week at which members grilled Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over the administration’s policies.

Hatch argued at last week’s hearing that “tariffs do not support U.S. national security” and has criticized them as a tax on American families.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key member of the Finance Committee, warned Ross last week that misusing Section 232 to make questionable national security claims against allies such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union could be dangerous.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Sunday warned that he might vote to block some of Trump’s judicial nominees unless Republican leaders schedule a vote constraining Trump’s authority.

If Flake followed through on the threat, it could be a significant problem.

Senate Republicans have an effective majority of 50 to 49 because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is at home indefinitely because of poor health, so a single Republican defection could block a nominee.

“I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us, will stand up and say, ‘Let’s not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs,’ ” Flake said to host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

Despite the tough talk, however, GOP senators have repeatedly shown a reluctance to go head-to-head against Trump, who consistently shows high approval ratings with the GOP base.

Whether this time will be any different remains to be seen.

Some GOP senators say that whatever changes are made to the law will likely wait until after the midterm elections, when they hope Trump will have wrapped up efforts to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

There’s strong sentiment within the Senate GOP conference that whatever they do, it does not appear to be undercutting Trump’s negotiating authority with Mexico and Canada.

At the same time, GOP senators insist that patience is running out.

“For many of us, we don’t understand what the game plan is and I think we’re running out of time to be able to [explain it] to our constituents, who are recognizing changes in the marketplace,” said Sen. Mike

Tags Bob Corker Donald Trump Jeff Flake John McCain Michael Bennet Orrin Hatch Paul Ryan Rob Portman Wilbur Ross

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