Melina Mara | The Washington Post | Getty Images
(L-R) Speaker of House Paul Ryan, Senator Orrin Hatch, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill in Washington DC Wednesday September 27, 2017.
But as Trump threatens more tariffs on Chinese imports and the U.S. exchanges trade broadsides with allies across the globe, it is unclear what action, if any, Republicans in Congress will take to limit potential damage to the U.S. economy.
“I’m not a fan of tariffs,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday, according to the Louisville-based Courier-Journal newspaper. “We’ve been arguing aggressively that this is the wrong path for us. The president does have the right to do what he’s doing. He’s not violating current trade policy.”
On Friday, U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on $34 billion in Chinese goods such as industrial parts and electronics took effect. Beijing retaliated with corresponding tariffs on $34 billion of products such as soybeans and pork. Trump expects to soon add another $16 billion in tariffs and will consider up to hundreds of billions of dollars more in duties. China is expected to fire back after those moves, as well.
The escalation comes at a delicate time for trade relations. Already, key allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union have levied tariffs on U.S. goods in response to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The president is also considering duties targeting foreign automobiles and auto parts — a move that many Republicans worry will cause consumers to feel considerable pain.
Numerous GOP lawmakers have warned that the actions combined could harm U.S. companies, raise costs for Americans and reduce the benefits of the tax overhaul that they have touted as a boon for the U.S. Despite the criticism of Trump’s policies, Republican leaders so far have not backed a push within the party to limit his ability to impose tariffs. As retribution mounts and lawmakers highlight tangible harm the White House’s actions have caused to U.S. companies, the GOP-controlled Congress appears hesitant to intervene, allowing Trump to barrel ahead with his trade policy.
Trump has argued that American companies and workers have long suffered from unfair global trade practices. He says revising free trade deals and imposing tariffs will help to balance the playing field for working-class Americans — a contention many Republicans, Democrats and labor groups agree with, to some extent.
Still, numerous lawmakers argue that Trump has gone too far by taking action against critical U.S. allies and prompting backlash against important industries such as agriculture.