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GOP boos Trump decision on tariffs

GOP boos Trump decision on tariffs
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Republicans loudly booed President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE’s announcement Thursday that he will impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

GOP lawmakers joined business groups in declaring that slapping 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum will hurt consumers by raising prices and leading trading partners to retaliate against U.S. goods.

Opposition came from GOP leaders in the House and Senate, rising Republican stars and hardline conservatives.

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“The speaker is hoping the president will consider the unintended consequences of this idea and look at other approaches before moving forward,” Doug Andres, a spokesman for Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Bottom line Ex-Trump chief of staff Priebus mulling Wisconsin governor bid MORE (R-Wis.), said in a statement.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneAfter vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director MORE (S.D.), the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, also criticized the move.

“We have concerns, obviously, about actions taken that would create retaliatory action by some of our trading partners and our competitors out there, so I think, you know, we would like to see the White House adopt a, sort of, pro-free-trade position,” he said. 

Conservative Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said Trump was proposing “a massive tax increase on American families” and accused him of betraying GOP principles.

“Protectionism is weak, not strong. You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one,” he said.

Republicans in the last week had repeatedly urged Trump to not impose tariffs, arguing that doing so would destroy more jobs than they would save.

But their pleadings appeared to fall flat with Trump, who made trade a central part of his presidential campaign, arguing U.S. workers had lost out to pro-free-trade policies backed by Washington politicians in both parties.

“We're going to build our steel industry back and we're going to build our aluminum industry back,” Trump said Thursday.

A handful of Republicans, including some from manufacturing-heavy states in the Midwest, did express support for the Trump plan.

“I have argued that certain parts of our industry here do need immediate protection,” Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ohio) said on Fox News. 

Cleveland is home to steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal’s Cleveland Works plant, one of nine integrated steel mills operating in the U.S.

Trump also won some support from Democrats.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Democrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill MORE (D-Ohio) called for aggressive action.

“They’ve been talking about this and walked up to the edge for 10-and-a-half months now, causing more steel job losses, causing more U.S. companies hardship, lost revenues, lower sales, and look where we are,” he said.

Stocks fell on the news of Trump’s tariffs as businesses warned of a trade war and higher costs for imports. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 420 points on the day.

“The problem with any kind of tariff or tax hike on imports is that it doesn’t make America more competitive or punish high-tax countries, it only hurts American industries by driving up manufacturing costs and, ultimately, costing jobs,” said Nathan Nascimento, executive vice president of Freedom Partners, a right-leaning group partly funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.) noted that when President George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs in 2002, higher steel prices led to net job losses.

Bush was forced to drop the tariffs within a year after trading partners retaliated. 

“Targeted measures against countries that don’t play by the rules, such as China, could help American workers," Alexander said. “Broad tariffs against steel and aluminum imports will raise prices on consumers and hurt American workers.”

Trump’s decision, which could still change by next week, went slightly beyond the Commerce Department's recommendation of a 24 percent tariff on steel and a 7.7 percent tariff on aluminum. 

Under section 232 of the trade law, the president can impose tariffs or quotas on imported materials for national security purposes. 

“I generally support free trade, but there are instances where because of national security you’ve got to do things, and this may be one of them,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), who said he was still undecided on the move ahead of the announcement.

Toomey said he didn’t buy the national security argument, and noted that the United States had already taken sensible trade action against Chinese steel dumping.

“Our defense needs are a tiny fraction of our domestic consumption of steel, so it’s not a plausible argument that we need it for national security,” he said.