WASHINGTON — Republicans have made a gentle, symbolic move toward reining in President Donald Trump on tariffs. But it’s unclear whether they’re willing to go any further than that.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 88 to 11 on Wednesday to pass a non-binding motion in favour of giving Congress “a role” in deciding on tariffs imposed under a “national security” provision of trade law.
It is rare for Republicans to take even the mildest of formal steps in opposition to Trump. The vote demonstrates the unhappiness of most congressional Republicans, who continue to favour free trade, with Trump’s protectionist tactics.
“This is a baby step in a good direction,” said Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who put forward the motion.
Republicans are wary of taking any substantive action against a president overwhelmingly popular with party voters. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not been willing to schedule a vote on a bill from Corker that would give Congress a vote not only on future “Section 232” tariffs but on all such tariffs going back two years, which would include the steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada.
Corker had previously attempted to schedule a Senate vote on the bill by attaching it to another legislative matter. But he was denied consent by Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who supports Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.
Corker’s Wednesday motion simply asked members of a committee to grant Congress an unspecified role in determining the national security tariffs. The committee is free to ignore the request.