GOP senator to back bill to 'rein in' Trump's trade authority

GOP senator to back bill to 'rein in' Trump's trade authority
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. 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.) on Friday announced that he would back legislation to rein in President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE's trade authority, underscoring growing GOP frustration with the administration's recent policy decisions.

“Congress should assert its constitutional responsibility and lead on trade policy so Americans keep access to affordable goods and services, and the opportunity to sell our products abroad,” Toomey said in a string of tweets explaining his decision to support Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Senate to vote on 9/11 victims bill on Tuesday Meghan McCain slams Rand Paul over blocking 9/11 compensation funding: 'This is a disgrace' MORE's (R-Utah) bill.

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The Trump administration on Thursday announced it would place steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico, ending the temporary exemptions for the key trading allies despite their two months of lobbying to avoid the tariffs.

Toomey said that implementing the tariffs under the guise of national security “weakens our credibility.”  

“Claiming steel bought from our allies is a ‘national security’ threat weakens our credibility. These tariffs, i.e. taxes, hurt American workers, employers, and consumers,” Toomey tweeted Friday.

He added that Lee's legislation would "rein in" Trump's ability to impose similar tariffs.  

If passed, the bill would require congressional approval for Trump’s trade actions, including tariffs.

Aside from Toomey and Lee, three GOP senators are officially backing the legislation: Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (Colo.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseJeffrey Epstein denied bail Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers Some good advice for Democrats to ignore in 2020 MORE (Neb.).

Republican senators have publicly fretted for months that Trump's trade policies would spark retaliation from other countries. 

Trump's recent moves, including exploring separate tariffs on imported autos, have poured fuel on the tensions between Trump and GOP lawmakers, who have fundamentally different approaches to trade.

Republicans have also been upfront about the fact that they are worried Trump's trade moves could roil the economy months before a midterm election, undoing what they view as a boost from last year's tax bill.

“If this devolves into a full-blown trade war, the resulting harm will undo all of the great economic progress we’ve made with deregulation and tax reform,” Toomey added Friday.

Toomey’s support could represent a major get for Lee’s legislation. The GOP senator is considered to be within the mainstream of the Senate Republican caucuses’ thinking on financial issues and he helped craft a deal that paved the way for last year's tax bill.

Asked last week about Toomey’s assertion that tariffs on imported autos were a “bad idea,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) noted that he normally agrees with the Pennsylvania senator on the issue.  

“I tend to agree with Toomey on that. I hope we can avoid getting into any kind of tariff situation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News. “I think all of us are hoping that all of this back and forth discussion about trade doesn’t end up leading into the implementation of tariffs or some larger trade war.”