Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Republican senators feeling the heat from constituents over trade war, but Rubio says U.S. must hang tough
"Senate Republicans expressed growing concern Tuesday that President Trump’s escalating trade war with China is hurting their constituents in rural America, ratcheting up tension between the White House and Congress on a signature issue," Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Taylor Telford report for The Washington Post.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said "I'm not sure if you talk to him face to face, he hears everything you say," the Post reports. Grassley is one of Trump's main critics on trade, and has previously clashed with the president on the Renewable Fuels Standard.
The president has been unclear about what he believes will happen next. "On Tuesday, Trump offered conflicting forecasts of what would happen next, predicting that a deal could be reached in a few weeks but also saying the showdown could last much longer," the Post reports. "The resulting impression was that trade policy was sharply zigzagging between calls for a return to the table and more negotiation, and preparation for further tariff pain."
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are being tested in their public support for Trump after last week's tariff increase prompted angry calls from constituents who complain they're being hurt by the trade war. "Faced with the prospect that Trump will continue with his adversarial approach, Republican lawmakers are also looking for ways to provide a taxpayer bailout to farmers, perhaps adding billions of dollars to a disaster bill that has languished in Congress for weeks," the Post reports.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the trade war was more the fault of corporations who made bad deals with China than Trump's tariffs. "Rubio acknowledges that the trade war with China is harmful to the American economy in the short term and that the tariffs increase costs for U.S. consumers. But he says he believes it’s worth it," the Post's James Hohmann reports.
"Surrendering to China will be devastating,” Rubio told Hohmann. "It will fundamentally alter our place in the world and the very nature of our economy for two generations or more."
The Post's Philip Bump, however, argues that the trade war is too expensive for America to maintain, and that American consumers are essentially subsidizing farmers, part of Trump's key political base: "A soybean farmer I spoke with last August in Pennsylvania described the tariff fight as 'a small loss for a big-time gain.' Whether that optimism holds nine months later — and whether it will last for another year — is unclear."
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told reporters this week that farmers' patience with the trade war was wearing thin, the Post reports. "I'm very hopeful we can get back to the table," Roberts said. "There's too much at stake."