GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs

GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs
© Greg Nash

Congressional Republicans are holding their fire on President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE’s decision to increase tariffs on Chinese imports, backing his argument that the leverage will help seal a deal.

Even farm-state senators who have repeatedly criticized Trump’s tariffs as hurting agricultural interests were on Friday offering support for the president.

“I have some sympathy for Trump's lack of patience with the Chinese. Enough is enough,” said Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump to sign USMCA next Wednesday Trump administration releases rule to restrict 'birth tourism' On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Grassley signs USMCA, sending it to Trump's desk | Union membership falls to record low | Manufacturers want Trump tax provision made permanent | Warren presses banks on climate plans MORE (R-Iowa), the Senate Finance Committee chairman who earlier this month threatened to block Trump’s signature trade deal from advancing if he didn’t scrap tariffs on Mexico and Canada.

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“We've gotta get [these] negotiations right, and we have to applaud Trump being the first president to call out China on bad behavior and bring them to the negotiating table,” he added.

Trump raised tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on Friday, saying that China reneged on earlier positions. He also threatened more tariffs should negotiations not go as planned.

“Obviously it’s part of a longer strategy to reset with China,” said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSchumer urges declassification of letter from Pence aide Republicans take aim at Nadler for saying GOP senators complicit in 'cover-up' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules MORE (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Meadows said that even constituents affected by the tariffs — and China’s retaliatory tariffs —were not giving up on Trump.

“I hear from my farmers and those that are impacted by it in hopes that it comes to a close very soon, but I also hear from them that they’re willing to support the president because the current model is not sustainable in the long term,” he said.

Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLive coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Laughter erupts at hearing after Democrat fires back: Trump 'has 5 Pinocchios on a daily basis' Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE (R-Texas) ranking member of House Agriculture Committee, also offered support for Trump.

“Obviously it's hurting folks, but the greater issue is, do we bring China to the table and force them to act like a responsible citizen of the world, or do they continue their quest to be a big bully across the spectrum?” he said.

Rep. Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrOn the Trail: Forget the pundits, more electoral votes could be in play in 2020 Mnuchin to lawmakers: 'I'm highly encouraged you will' pass Trump's North America trade deal Kentucky Democrat moves closer to McConnell challenge MORE (R-Ky.) said the tariffs were a small price to pay for a good trade deal with China.

“We obviously need more leverage in these negotiations,” he said. “If we did get a good deal with China, it would be huge for Kentucky agriculture, huge for Kentucky bourbon.” 

While lawmakers offered Trump support, business groups blasted the continued trade war.

Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-backed group that has frequently clashed with Trump on trade, said it was time to “abandon the strategy” of increasing tariffs to exert pressure.

“Rather than continuing to push a strategy where both sides clearly lose, the U.S. should seek the elimination of all tariffs, quotas, and trade barriers that adversely affect Americans,” said the group's president, Tim Phillips.

FreedomWorks, a group associated with the Tea Party, said the tariffs caused instability and hurt Americans. 

“Countries don’t pay tariffs. Businesses don’t pay tariffs. Only consumers pay these costs," said Jason Pye, a FreedomWorks vice president.

ITI, a tech trade group, said that although China's practices needed to be addressed, “this trade conflict has taken a significant toll on U.S. businesses, workers, and consumers.”

The tariffs, it noted, would increase prices on electronic products such as modems and routers, among other things.

Trump has found support for aggressive actions with China from Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer urges declassification of letter from Pence aide No rush to judgment on Trump — it's been ongoing since Election Day Collins walks impeachment tightrope MORE (D-N.Y.), a longtime critic of Beijing’s economic policies.

Members of the party were mild in any criticism of Trump’s actions.

“While the administration is right to take on the serious trade challenges our country has with China, I have long been skeptical that the president will deliver for American workers without coordinating with our economic and political allies,” said Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Bezos phone breach escalates fears over Saudi hacking Top intel office fails to meet deadline to give Khashoggi report to Congress: report MORE (D-Ore.), the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member.

Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealKey House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week Coalition of conservative groups to air ads against bipartisan proposal to end 'surprise' medical bills House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said trade wars are “not helpful,” but highlighted the importance of striking a good deal with China. 

“I think we’re all in favor of a stronger negotiating mechanism,” he said, before raising concerns that Trump was overly reliant on tariffs. 

“I always think the threat of tariffs are better than the tariffs, but I think that this idea that tariffs alone are a panacea, I’m not sure that’s workable,” he said.

Others took issue with Trump playing down the negative effects of tariffs on the U.S.

“They’re wrong, they’re hurting farmers, they’re hurting manufacturers, they’re hurting tech companies, they’re hurting global supply chains,” said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaWarren calls for Brazil to drop charges against Glenn Greenwald Sanders co-chair: Greenwald charges could cause 'chilling effect on journalism across the world' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules MORE (D-Calif.), who argued that a deal could be struck without using “blunt instruments.”

“But I expect that he’s going to get a deal with China, that these are temporary,” he added.

Trump tweeted Friday that negotiations were constructive, and that tariffs “may or may not be removed depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations”

Sylvan Lane contributed to this report