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 TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally 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 GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again 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 MeadowsPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter 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 BarrThe Hill's Campaign Report: The political heavyweights in Tuesday's primary fights Democrat Josh Hicks wins Kentucky primary to challenge Andy Barr McGrath fends off Booker to win Kentucky Senate primary 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 SchumerPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief Postal Service says it lost .2 billion over three-month period 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 WydenTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (D-Ore.), the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member.

Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealBiden says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Conservatives urge Trump to take unilateral action to suspend payroll tax collection Treasury to conduct policy review of tax-exempt status for universities after Trump tweets 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) KhannaSanders supporters launch six-figure ad campaign explaining why they're voting for Biden Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill 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