Roberts votes for Corker-Tommey tariff measure after veterans event |

Roberts votes for Corker-Tommey tariff measure after veterans event

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., speaks at a Farm Credit veterans event today. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

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.

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.

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