Roberts votes for Corker-Tommey tariff measure after veterans event
July 11, 2018
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., today voted for a symbolic measure that amounts to a rebuke to President Donald Trump's imposition of tariffs on products from other countries on national security grounds.
Roberts joined 87 other senators in voting for a motion to instruct conferees on an appropriations bill to include language providing a role for congress in making a determination to impose the tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
After a Farm Credit event on farmer veterans, Roberts told reporters that, while a provision was included in the 1962 law to give the president freedom to impose the tariffs on the basis of national security, the current situation is "getting to be a national security issue the other way around," meaning that the tariffs and the resulting retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm products are becoming a matter of national security.
On his way to the vote, Roberts added that he would check with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, before deciding how to vote, but Hatch supported the measure.
The motion to instruct will not have the force of law, The Washington Post noted, but it is still a rebuke to Trump.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., have introduced a stand-alone bill requiring congressional approval of tariffs on national security grounds, but they have been unable to bring the bill to the floor. On the farm bill, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, blocked it on the grounds that Congress should not limit the president's ability to deal with national security. Brown has been a consistent supporter of Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum.
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At the veterans event, Roberts said that everyone involved in American agriculture is "turning out to be pawns in our trade policy."
A trade war is "like shattered glass," with unintended consequences, Roberts said, noting that in addition to farmers being worried that foreign countries' tariffs on farm products will reduce exports, a Kansas company that uses imported steel has found its costs rising.
Roberts also pointed out that Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recently said the tariffs on steel and aluminum have been "a catastrophe" for Iowa agriculture, and Roberts said he can't top that characterization.