According to the editorial board of the conservative Wall Street Journal, Republicans must band together and strip President Donald Trump of some of his trade powers before he does irreparable damage to the U.S. economy.
Under the headline, Congress vs. Trump on Tariffs, the board blamed Democrats for the laws that have allowed the President to impose tariffs — citing national security — before saying the GOP needs to “rein” Trump in.
“Republicans have complained for years that the executive has encroached on the powers of the legislature, but the GOP hasn’t done much to stop the invasion. This week a bipartisan coalition in the Senate is finally rebelling against the Trump Administration’s unilateral trade war, and we’re glad to see it,” the editors wrote, adding that they are encouraged by push-back from Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R).
Noting that U.S. presidents were granted additional constitutional authority on trade dating back to the “Smoot-Hawley tariffs in 1929 that kicked off a global trade war and contributed to the Great Depression,” the journal said that Trump is now misusing them.
“The long-time assumption was that while Congress represented parochial or regional interests, a President would act in the national interest to expand trade. And for decades executives of both parties did. George H.W. Bush negotiated Nafta, while Bill Clinton pushed it through Congress. Free-trade Republicans in Congress passed bilateral trade deals under both Democratic and GOP Presidents,” the opinion piece read.
“Enter Donald Trump, who has now taken that authority and is using it for protectionist, rather than trade-opening, ends. It’s no accident he’s using Section 232, which gives him enormous latitude to define a national-security trade threat and virtually unlimited authority to impose a tariff or quota remedy,” it continued. “For the first time in nearly a century, a President is more protectionist than Congress, and Congress needs to rein him in.”
“Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is saying the Corker bill would be ‘an exercise in futility’ because either the House or Senate might fail and show Congress is impotent, or the President will veto. But so what? Members of Congress don’t take orders from Mr. Trump and they have their own principles and constituents to represent,” the editors suggested.
“If they think Mr. Trump’s trade policy is harming the economy, they have an obligation to try to stop him,” the editors advised. “They’ll have more than a few allies. The National Retail Federation has endorsed the Corker bill, as has the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association. Jamie Dimon, chairman of the Business Roundtable, said this week that Mr. Trump’s trade policy could undermine the strong economy.”
The Journal editors also went on to point out what they can expect from a president more inclined to tweets than policy discussion.
“Mr. Trump might rage on Twitter, but Congress needs to send him a message that his protectionism isn’t cost-free,” they concluded. “Otherwise he might believe he can get away with blowing up Nafta, imposing a 25% tariff on imported cars, or shutting down trade with China. Mr. Corker’s effort is a test of the Republican Congress’s political will and its sincerity on the economic benefits of free trade.”
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