Corker restarts tariff battle with Trump

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POLITICO – BURGESS EVERETT – The frequent Trump critic is seizing on the Senate’s farm bill to try to curb the president’s tariffs.

GOP Sen. Bob Corker is making a new push to allow Congress to block President Donald Trump’s tariffs on U.S. allies, though his fellow Republicans may stop it in its tracks once again.

The Tennessee senator is offering an amendment written with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to the Senate’s farm bill this week that would allow Congress to approve or disapprove of tariffs levied against countries on national security justifications.

The president has slapped steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico, Canada and Europe and is threatening to impose new tariffs on European cars, which Corker says will eventually cause a “jailbreak” among Senate Republicans whose states are getting hit with retaliation.

“There’s going to be more and more pain accruing. July 1, there’s another round of tariffs on us. July 6, there’s another round of tariffs on us. And we’re already seeing the impact on the economy,” Corker said Tuesday as the Senate took up the bipartisan farm bill. “This is a farm bill, if you look at the impact on the ag community of these tariffs, it is severe. So I don’t know of a more appropriate piece of legislation to put this on.”

Trump opposes the amendment, and it could imperil the farm bill if the amendment is adopted. Party leaders are not sure whether it has 60 votes to succeed; Corker and Toomey argue the only way to find out is to hold a vote. However, any one senator could object to a vote.

Some Republicans privately believe Corker may get at least a procedural vote this week, if not a straight vote on his amendment. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has routinely cast doubt on Corker’s effort, and McConnell’s chief deputy said he’d prefer not to tar the farm bill with such a contentious debate.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he’d prefer the tariff proposal be referred to the Senate Finance Committee as a standalone bill, where it could take weeks to work though the panel. Whether Corker will get a vote during debate on the farm bill is “still being litigated,” he said.

“We’re going to finish the farm bill this week,” Cornyn said. “Irrespective of what happens on the farm bill, the appropriate place for this is the Senate Finance Committee.”

Still, McConnell is telling senators to stop fighting each other over amendments, which could be a positive development for the tariff proposal.

“Mitch’s line is: we shouldn’t block each other’s amendment… but there some people adamantly opposed to it,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), another proponent of the Corker amendment. Flake is threatening to oppose judicial nominees in order to get a vote.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said he was concerned the amendment is too broad in allowing Congress input. The Utah Republican said he hopes Corker narrows the language before offering it as an amendment.

“It complicates things [on the farm bill], but we’ll see. I prefer it not be so broad,” Hatch said.

Corker and Toomey, with a coalition of liberal, conservative and moderate senators, were rebuffed earlier this month when trying to attach their amendment to a defense bill. GOP leaders did not want to confront the president so directly, and Corker was told his amendment had procedural problems because the defense bill wasn’t a revenue bill.

Posted By: BURGESS EVERETT,, 06/26/2018 01:00 PM EDT, Updated 06/26/2018 04:25 PM EDT

Picture: Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images  |  Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is offering an amendment to the Senate’s farm bill that would allow Congress to approve or disapprove of tariffs levied on national security justifications.