Speaking from the Senate floor, Flake argued that the tariffs threaten the US economy, stating that “if implemented, these tariffs will do just what tariffs have always done. They will lead to job losses and will stymie economic growth. Tariffs are bad enough on their own. Tariffs married to uncertainty are even worse.”
Flake insisted that nullification would be a better option than modifying the president’s policy as it stands. He said, “If you modify it all you’re doing is creating more uncertainty, giving the president abilities to be flexible on tariffs, to wake up one day and say we’re exempting Australia but not Brazil?”
The senator’s legislative action comes off the heels of statements from Republican leadership, who have voiced skepticism over the White House’s trade policies. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying “Members of the Senate, myself included, are concerned about the scope of the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum and their impact on American citizens and businesses. Questions remain about whether ultimately these tariffs will be sufficiently targeted, tailored and limited.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office voiced its concern prior to the Trump Administration imposing the tariffs, with spokeswoman AshLee Strong saying “we are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance this plan. The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”
Senator Mike Lee of Utah also sought to limit the president’s power through legislation, introducing a measure that he told Forbes would “restore the proper balance of power between the branches of government” by allowing future tariffs to be reviewed by Congress.
But Senator John Cornyn of Texas said Monday that it’s unlikely that legislation seeking to block the tariffs would have any traction in Congress. The high-ranking Republican said “we’re making progress without legislation. The president carving out states that aren’t hostile actors when it comes to trade is a positive development, and I expect we’ll continue that conversation.”