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Liberal Senate Democrat shields Trump from trade blowback

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan 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 TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments 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 CorkerThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Fox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member MORE (Tenn.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote 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 HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (N.D.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one Schumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands Senate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks MORE (Va.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats face big headaches on Biden's T spending plan Democrats introduce bill to give hotels targeted relief Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (Hawaii) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenIs America slipping to autocracy? Trade representative says policy must protect key industries Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (Md.).

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel 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.”