GOP Largely Breaks With Trump On Import Tariff Penalties And Trade Agreements

Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell & GOP Oppose Trump Proposed Tariffs

Donald Trump ran vociferously on penalizing companies who export American jobs outside the country with large import tariffs to sell their goods in the United States, a theme that resonated well with blue collar, working class voters in the 2016 election.  Ironically, his party by in large does not support his stance fearing that kind of protectionism would lead to trade wars that would ultimately cost American jobs.

Says Representative Kevin McCarthy, R-California in response to Trump’s threats over the weekend to seek a 35 percent import tariff on goods sold by United States companies that move jobs overseas and displace American workers, “I don’t want to get into some kind of trade war.”  These sentiments about punishing tariffs are echoed by other GOP congressional leadership including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump’s opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) also does not necessarily resonate with many within his party who generally are in favor of trade deals that expand American participation in international trade.  Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell conversely sponsored a bill that gave President Obama and his successor the ability to fact track trade deal negotiations.

“Tax cuts and deregulation will make the American economy great again, but tariffs and trade wars will make it tank again,” David McIntosh, president of the conservative group Club for Growth, said in a statement, adding, “The majority leader is right to caution against protectionism and to urge a robust debate on free markets and trade.”

States Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant and former official at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Tough talk plays well with [Trump’s] base and is arguably even long overdue but ultimately, the legislative focus will be on tax reform and deregulation versus tariffs and trade wars. I don’t believe Republicans will let a golden opportunity to finally pass comprehensive tax reform fall victim to intraparty squabbling.

It is not clear how much Congress will play a role in their ability to thwart President Elect Trump’s intent to use tariffs to leverage companies and pull the United States out of trade deals.  The Executive Branch has some autonomy to negotiate trade agreements and enact tariffs; how much autonomy remains debatable.  How the Congressional GOP would respond to a President Trump who is pushing the envelope to unilaterally enact measures they do not support remains to be seen.

Time will tell if President Elect Trump will change his position on these matters to be more in line with his party, and if GOP members will have the political courage to lead a public campaign against their President if he does not.

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