While Donald Trump is away, the Congress will play. The Senate took a nearly unanimous vote in support of NATO, even as the president trashed talked our allies at the summit meeting in Brussels. Now, the American politicians have gone bipartisan again, while POTUS was in Europe.
In an 88 to 11 vote, the Senate sent a non-binding resolution to the White House about Trump’s wild tariff war. A tariff is, in essence, a tax imposed upon nations selling goods to the U.S. The resolution called for the commander-in-chief to acquire congressional agreement before he could use national security as a reason to impose tariffs on other countries.
Recently, the president drove through the national security loophole to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union (EU). This, even though it was highly unlikely that our friendly neighbors to the north would ever go to war with us.
He has since imposed tariffs on China’s goods. Trump’s tariffs have already hit U.S. farmers hard. If this continues, people across the country will start to see store items become more expensive. The next step would be a one or two-point drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), followed by a recession.
The non-binding resolution was an expression of how frustrated the Congress has been with Trump. Surely, they know that he would never sign enforceable legislation to that effect.
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has written a book critical of Trump. He often speaks out against the president’s policies and told CNN:
‘Let’s be clear, this is a rebuke of the President’s abuse of trade authority. Can you imagine being Canada and being told your steel and aluminum exports to the United States (are) a national security threat?’
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) chaired the Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) wrote the measure. Toomey heralds from a steel producing state. They hope that the measure would help “build momentum for future tougher legislation.”
Corker said that the measure was a “baby step:”
‘This is a vote for Congress to assume its rightful role. It’s a baby step…I believe support for our legislation will only grow. We will continue to push for a binding vote and are hopeful one will be scheduled in the near future.’
Flake has been blocking numerous presidential appeals court judge nominations. The senator has held this over Trump’s head as leverage for the tariff legislation.
Flake initially insisted he would only accept a vote on a “substantive” measure but accepted the non-binding resolution instead. He told CNN he would lift his “holds” on those judges following this vote.
House Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been reluctant to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate. Even if the measure passed, it would be very difficult to reach the super-majority vote to override a Trump veto.
Congress would have to approve tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. It requires the reason behind tariffs to be national security concerns.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) told The Hill:
‘I think it’s significant that, as many of us have discussed with the president and his Cabinet, that there’s some anxiety about … tariffs. I think it’s just a way to make that point.’
Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) criticized the senators shortly before the vote, saying they were tying Trump’s hands.
‘I just don’t understand why this body continues to try to tie the hands of this president at every turn. This president is committed to creating a more level playing field for our workers and our companies here at home to compete.’
The 11 Republican senators who voted “no” include: John Barrasso (WY), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Mike Crapo (ID), Mike Enzi (WY), Lindsey Graham (SC), Dean Heller (NV), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), James Inhofe (OK), David Perdue (GA), Jim Risch (ID), and Tim Scott (SC).
Featured Image via Getty Images/Spencer Platt.