As Senate Eyes Corker’s Tariffs Bill, Ryan Sounds Increasingly Opposed

Even as Republican leaders in the Senate have become more open to a measure that would roll back some of President Donald Trump’s unilateral trade powers, GOP leadership in the House is sounding increasingly skeptical of the idea.

House speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday told reporters that while he doesn’t believe tariffs are the right way to approach international trade disputes, he still sees downsides to requiring congressional approval for Trump’s broad national security tariffs.

“Yeah, I don’t want to hamstring the president’s negotiating tactics,” Ryan said when asked about a measure introduced by Tennessee Republican Bob Corker in the Senate, which would subject tariffs employed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act to congressional approval. Trump has used that provision to impose duties of 25 percent and 10 percent on foreign steel and aluminum, claiming that such imports represent a national security threat.

“I’ve long said I don’t think tariffs are the right way to go,” Ryan added during the press conference. Ryan and his colleagues have disagreed with the administration’s use of the tariffs publicly, but they have been reluctant to pass legislation to prevent abuse of Section 232.

When asked about Corker’s bill in the past, Ryan has pointed to its low odds of passage considering the almost-guaranteed threat of a presidential veto, but he has avoided weighing in on whether he would support the measure. His comments on Wednesday morning indicate increased opposition to the bill among Republicans in the House, despite improvement in its odds of passage in the Senate in recent weeks.

The Senate will address the issue with a vote on a non-binding resolution on Wednesday afternoon. Known as a motion to instruct, it does not have the force of law and represents more of a first step than a clear solution to the problem. Without support from their colleagues in the House, GOP senators have little chance of enacting law through this vehicle.

In a tweet prior to the vote, Corker described the measure as “a test vote.”

“This is a good first step and will get the Senate on the record on this critical issue,” he wrote.

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