Congressional Republicans Lobby Trump To Back Down On Tariffs : NPR

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President Trump speaks during a tax policy meeting last November with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady.

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Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump speaks during a tax policy meeting last November with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady.

Evan Vucci/AP

Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET

Fears of economic and political backlash are motivating senior congressional Republicans to move forward this week with public and private lobbying efforts aimed at getting President Trump to change his mind about tariffs he intends to levy on steel and aluminium imports.

“We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. “The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”

President Trump downplayed congressional GOP concerns. “I don’t think you’re going to have a trade war,” he said Monday at the White House, where he defended his decision to crack down on imports. “People have to understand, our country on trade, has been ripped off by virtually every country in the world whether it’s friend or enemy. Everybody.”

The president noted that his efforts to renegotiate NAFTA continue as well. “We are renegotiating NAFTA as I said I would, and if we don’t make a deal I will terminate NAFTA,” he warned.

Congress is not ruling out possible legislative action to counter Trump’s actions, although party leaders have no immediate plans to act if the president moves forward this week as stated with imposing tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and the panel’s trade subcommittee chairman, David Reichert, R-Wash., have also drafted a letter to the president outlining concerns about new tariffs. They are seeking additional signatures from House Republicans. Aides said lawmakers were hoping to avoid a confrontation with the administration and instead work with the president to enact trade policies the broader GOP can get behind.

“As the two chairmen have reinforced, the administration and Congress must work together on trade policies that build off the momentum of the president’s tax cuts, which is why any tariffs should be narrow, targeted, and focused on addressing unfairly traded products, without disrupting the flow of fairly traded products for American businesses and consumers,” Lauren Aronson, a spokeswoman for the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is also expected to send a letter to the president this week asking him to reconsider his position. Hatch opposes new tariffs because he believes they will undermine any economic boost delivered by the GOP’s tax cuts. “Should the administration opt to move forward with tariffs on steel and aluminum, American manufacturers, businesses, and consumers would be forced to bear the brunt paying more for steel and steel products. Such action could very well undercut the benefits of the pro-growth tax reform we fought to get on the books,” Hatch said in a weekend statement.

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