Donald Trump’s economic plans for the United States have worked out fairly well thus far, but still, some Republicans are worried about his tariffs and what they will do to international trade. However, they don’t really have the power to undermine his tariffs, as that is a power given to the executive branch.
So what did the Senate (including a majority of Republicans) do? They passed a symbolic vote against the tariffs, which hoped to include language in a future bill that will work on “providing a role for Congress” in tariffs implemented for national security reasons. In other words, they essentially did nothing more than engaging in kabuki theater, taking a pot shot at the president, and pushing for a “congress role” in the tariffs without actually being willing to vote on it.
Senators, in a vote of 88-11, declared that they would try to sneak language into a government funding bill that gave them some role in tariffs implemented based on Section 232 of trade laws.
However, the vote was nonbinding, meaning that they don’t have to actually abide by it and that there is no negative outcome for failing to do so.
It was the vote margin, which is more than enough to override a presidential veto, that is meant to be the real point of the ‘legislation’ they adopted.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, suggested that the vote was just their way to make it clear that there was a lot of ‘anxiety’ about the tariffs in the legislature.
They were complaining because President Trump used the authority of his office to put in place tariffs, based on national security interests, on imports into the United States made of steel and aluminum.
While some members of the Republican party are more than happy to vote on non-binding resolutions against the president, however, it seems like they’re unwilling to actually take any step against Donald J. Trump, or to pass legislation actually demanding that they have a say in Section 232 tariffs.
One individual, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, tried to attach legislation requiring congressional approval for such tariffs to two bills. One was a defense bill, and the other a farm bill.
In both cases, he was blocked.
However, Corker said that he believed support for his action would only grow as time went on, and that he would continue to push for a binding vote in the future.
Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who is retiring this year, decided he would oppose President Trump’s nominees to various federal courts of appeal over the ‘tariff fight.’
Flake, who has no legal expertise to speak of, said that he wanted to see the legislature “rein in” the “abuse” of presidential authority where tariffs were concerned.
Orrin Hatch, who is on the Senate Finance Committee, said he would bring up tariff legislation in the committee, where some have suggested that they would like to narrow Section 232 and its uses under the law.
Senator David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia, condemned the vote, and said that it undermined the President and the office he holds.
He also said that he didn’t understand why Congress was looking to “tie” Donald Trump’s hands at every turn, especially when the president was simply working to create a “level playing field” for workers and companies in the United States to compete in.
Frankly, the entire affair seems disingenuous.
If Republicans and Democrats are so interested in reigning in President Trump’s ability to institute tariffs, it seems certain that they have the votes. With 88 votes in favor, they have enough votes to do what they would like, and to do so without worry that the President could veto it, in fact.
With those 88 votes, they did nothing. They could have quickly written actual legislation that would have amended Section 232, and forced it through after their nonbinding resolution passed.
Instead, they patted themselves on the back for doing effectively nothing.
This doesn’t seem like a real desire to reign in Donald Trump’s ability to place tariffs on nations. It seems more like an attempt to create some ‘wiggle room’ for later, if the tariffs turn out to be a bad decision, so that Congress can say “well, we wanted to do something, but it didn’t work out. It’s not our fault.”
It seems like politicking at its worst, which is a recurring theme these days, sadly, except in the White House.
If Congress is really interested in asserting some sort of authority, it’s time for them to vote on it or stop talking about it.