Legislation from Tennessee U.S. Senator Bob Corker that would require congressional approval of tariffs imposed in the name of national security hit a roadblock Tuesday.
Corker sought to attach his proposal to must-pass defense legislation, but his attempt to force a vote was defeated when Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., objected.
Corker’s amendment targeted President Donald Trump’s tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum, as well as future tariffs imposed by presidents who invoke their authority to curb imports in the interest of national security.
“I haven’t heard a single senator on our side that hasn’t expressed concern to the president directly about what’s happening with tariffs,” said Corker said from the Senate floor late Tuesday. “Our farm folks are worried about NAFTA. Our auto manufacturers are worried about Canada and Mexico and what’s happening in Europe. Our steel and aluminum folks are concerned. I haven’t heard a person that hasn’t had some degree of concern. And all my amendment would do is say, ‘Look, Mr. President, you go negotiate, but when you finish, come back, and as senators and as House members, let us vote up or down.'”
Inhofe said inclusion of the amendment would jeopardize passage of the defense bill or delay its passage. Corker said Republican senators overwhelmingly support the concept of Congress signing off on such tariffs but are afraid of upsetting the president.
“It’s an important piece of legislation that is timely,” Corker told reporters at Friday’s Statesmen Dinner which is a fundraiser for Tennessee’s Republican Party.
“Damage is being done to our country,” said Corker Friday. “Damage is being done to the relationships we have especially to our NATO allies–especially Europeans. damage is being done to our neighbors.”
Damage is also being done in Tennessee says its Republican Governor Bill Haslam.
He was with Senator Corker and other Tennessee congressional members at Friday’s state party fundraiser.
“We are so strong in the automotive industry, I am worried about the impact particularly on our suppliers,” said the governor. “Number two, our agricultural community; we are already starting to see retaliatory tariffs, so I would like to see the president go in a different direction with those tariffs. I think we will feel them in Tennessee.”
Representative Marsha Blackburn, who is running for Corker’s seat and who just had President Trump in Tennessee for a fundraiser, is taking a “wait-and-see” attitude for tariffs–especially with many local companies’ large and small asking for exemptions.
“We are talking with people to make certain that we are not adversely impacted and waiting to see with these exemptions,” she said Friday.
Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen said he supports Corker’s tariff bill requiring congressional approval.
A spokesperson for Senator Corker’s office told News 2, “We will continue to look for ways to get an up-or-down vote on the floor ” concerning the tariffs issue.
*The Associated Press contributed to this report.