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 TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley announces reelection bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B 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 MeadowsExecutive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump Biden does not plan to shield Trump docs in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble 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 ConawayEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm If Congress can't work together to address child hunger we're doomed Ex-Rep. Mike Conaway, former aide launch lobbying firm 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 BarrRepublicans press Biden administration to maintain sanctions against Taliban World Bank suspends aid to Afghanistan after Taliban takeover GOP lawmaker aims to block Taliban from accessing international funds 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 SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan 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 WydenOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (D-Ore.), the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member.

Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealWhy Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong Biden says he supports taxing billionaires' investment gains annually Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs 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) KhannaHouse passes sweeping defense policy bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage 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