President Donald Trump’s closest Republican allies on Capitol Hill are criticizing his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to protect national security, while some Democrats are applauding.
The upside-down reaction comes a day after Trump irked Republicans and pleased many Democrats by backing stricter gun-control measures and suggesting the government could take guns, initially without due process, from some citizens viewed as dangerous.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said Trump should reconsider his plan for a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, announced at the White House on Thursday.
“The speaker is hoping the president will consider the unintended consequences of this idea and look at other approaches before moving forward,” said Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan of Wisconsin.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican whose committee oversees trade matters and who late last year suggested Trump could become the greatest U.S. president, called the move a burden on the public.
“Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford,” Hatch said. “I encourage the president to carefully consider all of the implications of raising the cost of steel and aluminum on American manufacturers and consumers.”
Tariffs ‘Can Backfire’
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas urged Trump to narrow the focus of the tariffs.
“The president is right to target unfair trade, but blanket tariffs that sweep up fairly traded steel and aluminum can backfire and harm our businesses and workers,” Brady said. “I urge President Trump to focus on targeting unfairly traded steel and aluminum while continuing to protect American companies that rely on fairly traded products.”
Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said the tariffs would be expected from a “leftist administration.” He didn’t mention that Republican President George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs.
Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent said he is worried that Hershey Co. in his state could be hurt by the move because it uses aluminum to package its candy.
The GOP criticism was in sharp contrast to the praise from trade skeptics in the Democratic Party.
“This welcome action is long overdue for shuttered steel plants across Ohio and steelworkers who live in fear that their jobs will be the next victims of Chinese cheating,” said Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said, “The American steel industry has been under pressure for decades from unfairly traded products from China and elsewhere, as well as global overcapacity. I am pleased that the president recognizes the importance of addressing these challenges and finally intends to take action.”