Congressional Republicans Struggle To Push Back On Trump's Tariffs The Senate voted 88-11 this week to constrain presidential authority to use national security as justification for taxing foreign goods, but the measure was nonbinding.
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Congressional Republicans Struggle To Push Back On Trump's Tariffs

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Congressional Republicans Struggle To Push Back On Trump's Tariffs

Congressional Republicans Struggle To Push Back On Trump's Tariffs

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Republicans in Congress are increasingly worried that President Trump seems set on waging a trade war with countries across the globe. The Trump administration has slapped tariffs on Chinese goods and on products from close allies in the EU and Canada. Congressional Republicans are worried that escalating a trade war could harm the U.S. economy right before the crucial midterm elections. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized the tariffs several times this week.


PAUL RYAN: I don't want to hamstring the president's negotiating tactics, but I've long said I don't think tariffs are the right way to go.

GREENE: NPR's Kelsey Snell covers Congress, and she joins us to talk about this. Hi, Kelsey.


GREENE: So how many Republicans agree with Ryan that these tariffs are the wrong way to, you know, do things like get China to even the playing field on trade, as President Trump talks about?

SNELL: Actually, nearly all of the Republicans that I talked to over the past couple of days agree with Paul Ryan. They say that they would like to have other ways of addressing tariffs or trade imbalances. They think there are more targeted ways to get our trading partners to allow our goods to get into their countries a little bit easier. Actually, this is one of those weird things where it's actually Rust-Belt Democrats who tend to agree with Trump, not people in his own party. It kind of scrambles those normal allies...


SNELL: ...That we would expect. And, you know, people up on the Hill tell me that they want to do something to give Congress some more power over this. Take retiring Senator Bob Corker. He's introduced at least three different ways to try - to rollbacks on Trump's tariff power. This is what he said.


BOB CORKER: It's just ham-handed. It lacks any degree of coherency.

SNELL: Yeah, so he's pretty frustrated. He was telling anybody who would listen that there is something that Congress can do and should do. Just a matter of, will they?

GREENE: I mean, such a weird political dynamic, I mean, since Republicans, you know, have the leadership in Congress but are feeling like what they really can't do that much?

SNELL: Right. There isn't really all that much they can do because, as Speaker Ryan and a lot of other Republicans said, what it would take is an act of Congress. And Congress would have to say that - 'cause to be clear, Congress in the Constitution has the ability to levy tariffs. But over time that power has been given over to the president. And so Congress would have to pass a law to take that power back. And Texas Congressman Bill Flores is one of those people who is really worried about the tariffs. But he was pretty blunt when I asked him if he thought Congress has much of a chance of reclaiming some of their power.


BILL FLORES: It'd take legislation. Of course, if I were the president, I would veto it.

SNELL: (Laughter).

GREENE: Wow. This is quite a moment for the Republican Party - I mean, hoping to go into this fall, hang on to both houses of Congress. Probably not what they would have wanted at all to be an open disagreement with the president.

SNELL: Right, because most of the Republicans out there running for re-election are running on a message that the economy is doing well. They're pointing at low unemployment numbers. They're talking about big growth. And they're saying it all came from - well, not all - but largely came from those tax cuts that passed at the end of last year. And now they're worried that a big trade war would wipe out all of those gains.

GREENE: Can I just ask you about another story on Capitol Hill this week? You had FBI agent Peter Strzok, who's faced this withering criticism of his handling of the investigations into Hillary Clinton and also President Trump, actually testifying. So many questions about what this could mean for the Mueller investigation. I mean, how did this go?

SNELL: Well, he was up there for about 10 hours.


SNELL: And it was explosive. It was a day full of shouting and frustration. And it was an extremely partisan exercise. It turned into almost personal at points. Congressman Louie Gohmert was asking him questions, and it got really heated. I think we have a little bit of sound of that.


LOUIE GOHMERT: And I've talked to FBI agents around the country. You've embarrassed them. You've embarrassed yourself. And I can't help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous.

GREENE: My goodness.

SNELL: Yeah. So that was maybe one of the most heated moments. But there was a lot of that going on. It was a big political show.

GREENE: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell joining us this morning. Kelsey, have a good weekend, and thanks.

SNELL: Thank you.

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