Politics Republican congressional leaders push Trump to cancel or narrow his tariff plan

23:50  06 march  2018
23:50  06 march  2018 Source:   latimes.com

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GOP leaders are frantically lobbying President Trump to water down his proposal to slap steep new But it’s not clear how much power congressional Republicans have to stop Trump from acting or Trump announced his tariff plan last week, saying he would impose a 25% tariff on steel imports

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Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell posing for the camera: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) makes remarks as Congressional Republicans announce the new tax reform plan in the U.S. Capitol on September 2, 2017, in Washington, D.C. © Ron Sachs/CNP/Abaca Press/TNS Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) makes remarks as Congressional Republicans announce the new tax reform plan in the U.S. Capitol on September 2, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON - Hoping to blunt a move Republicans fear could spark a trade war and backfire politically, party leaders in the House and Senate implored President Donald Trump on Tuesday to narrow or repudiate his planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The rare public disagreement between the president and the legislative leaders who have been largely deferential to him came amid widespread Republican concern that Trump's desired tariffs - 25 percent on foreign steel and 10 percent on foreign aluminum - would prompt retaliation that could slow the economy and deprive GOP candidates of their main argument in November.

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Trump 's tariffs have not yet taken effect, and congressional Republicans are hoping to persuade the president to limit their scope or effect. Since taking office, no issue has pitted Trump against his allies in Congress more than the tariff dispute has. Party leaders have voiced rare public concern

The Trump tariffs are a series of United States tariffs imposed during the presidency of Donald Trump as part of his "America First" economic policy to reduce the United States trade deficit by shifting

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly talked to the president since his surprise declaration last week, said that Republican senators are worried "about interfering with what appears to be an economy taking off."

"We are urging caution that this (not) develop into something much more dramatic that could send the economy in the wrong direction," he told reporters after a Senate lunch Tuesday.

His remarks came hours after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said that his members shared those concerns and had repeatedly made their fears known to the White House.

"The smarter way to go is to make it more surgical and more targeted," Ryan said of the tariffs, which have yet to be formally announced.

Ryan said that in multiple conversations, congressional Republicans have strongly urged Trump to go after "true abusers" in a way that avoided "unintended consequences and collateral damage."

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Congressional Republicans say any tariffs should be narrow in scope, and they privately warned that Trump 's effort could hurt the party's hopes to preserve its majority in the fall elections. As the president dug in on his position, any potential compromise with foreign trading partners and Republican

Senate Republicans , for months fearful of -- and outright opposed to -- President Donald Trump 's actions on tariffs , now have a bill to tie his hands.

For years, Trump has complained that China has dumped low-priced steel on U.S. markets, undercutting domestic manufacturers. But administration officials made clear in recent days that his proposed tariffs would hit every nation, including neighboring Canada, a high-ranking steel exporter.

Legislative leaders were hopeful Tuesday that the White House was, at the very least, wobbling on the breadth of its tariff order.

On Monday, the president said that he might consider exempting Canada and Mexico from tariffs if the three countries reach a new North American Free Trade Agreement that he finds acceptable. He spoke Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a conversation in which the White House said Trump "emphasized his commitment to a NAFTA agreement that was fair to all three countries."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated Tuesday, in a statement to a House committee, that if NAFTA is successfully renegotiated "those tariffs won't apply to Mexico and Canada."

Trump Reaffirms Commitment to Tariffs but Opens Door to Compromise

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In Canada, the prime minister's office released a more forceful statement saying Trudeau had "registered his serious concern" about the proposed steel and aluminum tariffs. They "would not be helpful to reaching a deal in NAFTA," the statement said.

Trudeau's comments were in keeping with fears by tariff opponents that Trump's action might prompt other nations to retaliate - raising prices for Americans. That was also the fear of congressional Republicans who already face daunting prospects in November's elections.

The economy ranks as the party's major argument for incumbents' re-election in November. Since Trump's tariff announcement, concerns have risen that the impact of tariffs would wipe out other recent economic gains, which Republicans plan to link to the GOP tax reform plan.

Ryan on Tuesday would refer only elliptically to those fears.

"We think the economy is doing very well, and we want to make sure that every step we take helps the economy," he said. "We want to be sure that abuses are held to account, especially China."

Schumer: Trump must back down from ‘sweeping’ tariffs

  Schumer: Trump must back down from ‘sweeping’ tariffs Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging President Trump to back down from his proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, instead urging the president to focus on China. "The president's instincts to go after China are correct, but the policy he proposes doesn't fit the bill. It's not well targeted. It's not precise. And as a result, it could cause a mess of collateral damage that hurts America more than it helps," Schumer said on Wednesday.

But, he added, "we want to be sure that every step we take forward does not have unintended consequences."

Asked if he shared Ryan's concerns, McConnell responded with mild frustration.

"I think we need to wait and see what the White House finally decides to do on this," he said.

Several Republicans have gone public with their criticism of the president's tariff proposal. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called the idea "kooky."

On the Senate floor Monday night, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., cited President George W. Bush's 2002 effort to impose similar tariffs as an example Trump should take to heart. The Bush effort was halted after it caused the same consequences Ryan and McConnell warned about on Tuesday,

"It's a good goal by a well-intentioned president, but I'm afraid that it will backfire just like it did for President Bush," Alexander said. "Tariffs are big taxes; they are big taxes that raise consumer prices."

Alexander said he was particularly alarmed by the impact on manufacturers in Tennessee, including those in the auto industry. He also reminded Trump that after the tariff announcement, Electrolux, a European appliance manufacturer, had put on hold a $250 million expansion it had planned in Springfield, Tenn. The company, which uses U.S. steel, said tariffs such as those backed by Trump would set off a domino effect leading to higher costs.

Trump has publicly brushed aside those concerns. In brief comments to reporters Monday, he said the United States "has been ripped off by virtually every country in the world, whether it's friend or enemy - everybody."

"How previous presidents allowed that to happen is disgraceful. But we're going to take care of it," Trump said.

He specifically turned aside fears by economists and even some members of his own staff that unilateral U.S. action would prompt other nations to retaliate, resulting in a trade war that hurts U.S. consumers.

"I don't think so. I don't think you're going to have a trade war, no," he said.

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Flake Files Bill to Stop the Trump Tariffs .
Sen. Jeff Flake on Monday introduced legislation that would nullify the tariffs President Donald Trump imposed last week on steel and aluminum imports. Mexico and Canada, who along with the U.S. are in the midst of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, are initially exempt from the new tariffs, a carveout Flake said would lead to uncertainty among other countries.“If implemented these tariffs will do just what tariffs have always done. They will lead to job losses and will stymie economic growth,” the Arizona Republican, who is retiring at the end of this year, said on the Senate floor.

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