WASHINGTON – The Senate signaled for the first time Wednesday that it is ready to push back on recent tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump.
In overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, senators backed 88 to 11 a largely symbolic resolution calling for Congress to have a role when the president imposes tariffs in the name of national security.
The resolution comes a day after Trump escalated his ongoing trade war with China by releasing a list of $200 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing said it would hit back.
Even though the measure approved Wednesday does not address the U.S.-China trade relationship, it signaled an increased willingness by the Republican-led Congress to stand up to Trump over trade. Many GOP lawmakers are increasingly concerned that tariffs from China and elsewhere could raise consumer costs and hurt farmers and manufacturers.
The resolution, led by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is focused on Trump’s decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Trump cited national security concerns as a reason for imposing the tariffs, a justification that triggered outrage among U.S. allies while also angering some Republicans.
The measure directs a conference committee working to resolve differences on an appropriations bill passed by the House and Senate to include in the final package language giving Congress a say on tariffs imposed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.
The resolution is non-binding, which means the conferees don’t have to follow its instructions.
“It’s a baby step,” conceded Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has been leading the charge to give Congress a say on tariff policy.
But Corker and other supporters described the motion as a necessary step to stand up against what they called Trump’s abuse of presidential authority.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who opposed the measure, argued that it would unnecessarily tie Trump’s hands and those of future presidents. Presidents need the freedom to negotiate, Perdue said, and Trump is simply trying to restore fairness to a trade imbalance with U.S. trading partners.
“This is about making sure America is treated fairly,” he said.