Liberal Senate Democrat shields Trump from trade blowback

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Biden calls Intel's B investment to build chip factories a tool for economic recovery Democrats see good chance of Garland prosecuting Trump MORE (D-Ohio), a leading liberal voice on trade issues and a potential presidential candidate in 2020, objected on Wednesday to a vote on an amendment that would have taken away much of President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE’s power to impose new tariffs.

Brown, who is up for reelection this fall in a major steel-producing state, slammed an amendment backed by GOP Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRepublicans, ideology, and demise of the state and local tax deduction Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force MORE (Tenn.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism Meet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Black women look to build upon gains in coming elections MORE (Pa.) that would require congressional approval on tariffs that the president imposes based on national security concerns.

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Brown’s objection spares Republicans from a showdown with Trump over trade, which Senate GOP leaders wanted to avoid. Republican leaders have argued that it does not make sense to clash with the president ahead of November's midterm elections, when turnout of the Republican base will be a key factor in determining which party controls the House and Senate.

The amendment would empower Congress to unwind the tariffs Trump has imposed on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico, Canada and the European Union.

“It hamstrings the president’s ability to protect America’s national security interests,” Brown said on the Senate floor, adding that tariffs are needed to “defend against further shrinking of two sectors critical to our national defense.”

He noted that Corker's proposal would take away Trump’s power to invoke what's known as Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act to impose tariffs.

“The Corker amendment would immediately remove the 232 steel and aluminum tariffs, including those on China," Brown said. "Why would any colleagues vote to let China off the hook?”

Senators who support limiting Trump’s tariff power argue that Section 232 was not intended to be used against allies such as Canada.

“It is meant to ensure that our Defense Department can procure defensive materials needed in time of war,” Toomey said on the floor. “But what do we have instead? We have this provision being invoked as a way to impose tariffs on some of our closest allies.”

Corker and Toomey had asked for the amendment to receive a vote during debate on the farm bill that's likely to become law.

Corker and Toomey had strong support for the amendment, with cosponsors like Democratic Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp11 former Democratic senators call for 'meaningful reform to Senate rules' Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Virginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters MORE (N.D.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power Schumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates Biden moves to boost security of sensitive national security systems MORE (Va.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs MORE (Hawaii) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Former Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat MORE (Md.).

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas) told reporters Wednesday that he would have likely voted against the Corker amendment and that it was not appropriate to attach it to the farm bill.

He said there should be hearings by the committee of jurisdiction before the Senate votes on restraining Trump’s tariff authority.

“It really ought to be in the Finance Committee,” Cornyn said. “It’s not likely to become law, and it could well jeopardize the farm bill itself. It’s no secret that President Trump is not a fan of that amendment.”