Republican senators balk at Trump’s trade aid for farmers

Senate Republicans are criticizing plans by the Trump administration to provide $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers hit by the president’s escalating trade war with China and other foreign partners. 

The Agriculture Department is planning to announce on Tuesday a $12 billion assistance package for farmers who have had trouble exporting commodities because of Trump’s tariffs against China, Mexico and Canada, the United States' biggest trading partners, according to multiple media reports.


The news was met with immediate pushback and criticism from Republicans, who say the administration is distorting the free market and trying to put farmers on “welfare.” 

“They want trade, not aid,” Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBipartisan supply chain bill likely punted to next Congress, McCaskill says Overnight Defense: Trump at G-20 | Calls Ukraine 'sole reason' for canceling Putin meeting | Senate passes resolution condemning Russian actions | Armed Services chairmen warn against defense cuts Senate passes resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine MORE (R-Wis.) said of farmers caught in the middle of the trade war. 

“This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here. Commissars deciding who should be granted waivers. Commissars in the administration trying to figure out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” he said.

“Farmers actually want the free-market system to work as best as possible and they want access to these overseas markets,” he added. “I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force MORE (R-Tenn.), an outspoken critic of Trump’s trade policies, said the president is putting farmers on welfare.

“You yourself put in place a policy that causes people to need to be on welfare and then you provide the welfare. It would be much better to just reverse the policy that’s creating this,” said Corker, who is retiring at the end of this Congress. 

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHouse funding bill scraps Arctic icebreaker program Senate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips The Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC MORE (R-Alaska), the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, objected to giving assistance to farmers but leaving out fishermen and the energy industry in her home state, who have also been hit by the trade war.

“Farmers are hit but there are a lot of others that are hit by these tariffs as well,” she said. “I have a seafood industry up north that is not considered to be farmers. We’re farmers of the sea."

“The impact to the seafood industry is significant,” she added. “The impact on the energy industry is significant.”

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseCNN to partner with The Des Moines Register on polling ahead of 2020 Iowa caucuses Sasse calls on DOJ to investigate its handling of wealthy sex offender's plea deal Beto O'Rourke seen as a top contender in 2020: poll MORE (R-Neb.), another frequent critic of the Trump administration, said Trump is turning back the clock to the era of protectionism that preceded the Great Depression.

"America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world," Sasse said in a statement. "This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again."