Liberal Senate Democrat shields Trump from trade blowback

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Sherrod Brown backs new North American trade deal: 'This will be the first trade agreement I've ever voted for' Trump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field 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 John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' 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 CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (Tenn.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns 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 HeitkampPro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states MORE (N.D.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat MORE (Va.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide MORE (Hawaii) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (Md.).

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA 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.”