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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 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.) on Friday announced that he would back legislation to rein in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing 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 LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line 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 FlakeOn The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference Mnuchin to decide by Thursday whether to attend Saudi conference GOP senator: Not 'appropriate' for Mnuchin to go to Saudi conference MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats must end mob rule GOP senators praise Haley as 'powerful' and 'unafraid' Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die MORE (Colo.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseGOP lawmaker on Trump's 'Horseface' comment: 'That's not the way men act' Republican senator and Sean Hannity clash over claims in new book GOP senators praise Haley as 'powerful' and 'unafraid' 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 McConnellGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials ratchet up fight over drug pricing | McConnell says Republicans could try again on ObamaCare repeal | Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel 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.”