Liberal Senate Democrat shields Trump from trade blowback

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks 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 TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview 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 CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (Tenn.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight 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 Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race 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 HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSchiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (Va.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Trump defends using DOD funds on border wall: 'Some of the generals think that this is more important' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Push for cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill | Court lets Dems defend ObamaCare | Flu season not as severe as last year, CDC says MORE (Hawaii) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems MORE (Md.).

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week 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.”