WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Corker chastised his fellow Republicans on Tuesday for failing to allow a vote on his proposal giving Congress the chance to accept or reject tariffs imposed by the president.
His voice occasionally rising, the Tennessee Republican said in a fiery speech on the Senate floor that Republicans are afraid to give his amendment a vote because they fear angering President Trump.
“I can’t believe it!” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I would bet that 95% of the people on this (Republican) side of the aisle support intellectually this amendment — I would bet higher than 95 percent — and a lot of them would vote for it if it came to a vote.”
“But no, no, no!” Corker continued. “Gosh, ‘we might poke the bear’ is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways …. ‘The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment, so we’re going to do everything we can to block it.’”
The amendment in question is a bipartisan proposal offered by Corker and 13 other senators last week that would allow the Senate to accept or reject tariffs when the president puts them in place as a matter of national security.
Corker and the other sponsors offered the amendment in response to Trump’s recent decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies, a move that analysts said pushed the United States closer to a trade war. Trump imposed the tariffs by arguing they are needed for national security.
Canada, Mexico and the European Union are now subject to a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum. Brazil, Argentina and Australia agreed to limit steel exports to the U.S. to avoid tariffs.
Corker is offering his tariff proposal as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass bill that the Senate is currently debating and could approve later this week.
Corker said he knows his amendment won’t get a vote. But he said the Senate is abdicating its oversight responsibilities by allowing Trump to impose tariffs under the guise of national security without any checks from Congress.