As the Senate took largely symbolic action against President Donald Trump’s trade policies by passing a resolution Wednesday, several House Republicans said the blowback over his tariffs is beginning to worry even some of his supporters in their districts.
Trump has threatened allies and adversaries alike with tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other products over what he claims are unfair trade practices, but many of the U.S. farmers and manufacturers those taxes are intended to help fear retaliation will escalate into a trade war.
Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., said farmers support the president’s goal of making trade fair, but they are concerned by his tactics and their consequences.
“There’s a lot of things agriculture is very happy with Trump on,” Valadao said, “but the trade policies have a lot of folks nervous.”
After the U.S. imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods last Friday, China responded by doing the same to $34 billion of U.S. goods. On Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a list of Chinese products worth a total of $200 billion that could face a 10 percent tariff later this year in response to that.
“Holding China accountable for unfair trading practices, I encourage the president to do so,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill. “But we have to make sure we don’t see the administration punish our allies.”
Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., also questioned the president’s strategy of threatening trade penalties against Canada, Mexico, and Europe at the same time he is confronting China.
“We need to pull back a little bit, be more strategic and precise in going after the Chinese, get with our like-minded allies to go after the Chinese,” LaHood said. “But getting in a full-out trade war is going to have detrimental effect for our farmers.”
The looming prospect of a trade war on multiple fronts prompted a legislative rebuke of Trump from members of his own party Wednesday. In the Senate, an overwhelming bipartisan majority including nearly 40 Republicans voted in favor of a non-binding resolution asserting the power of Congress in imposing tariffs on national security grounds.
The vote has no practical effect, but supporters say it could lead to more confrontational legislation that actually challenges Trump’s authority.
While he fears a trade war and he has seen some trepidation in his district, Davis said constituents he spoke to at a recent event still have faith.
“I asked, ‘Do you trust the president and his administration is negotiating on your behalf and will have a good outcome?” he said, “and every single hand except two in that room went up.”
LaHood blamed some of Trump’s advisers for pushing protectionist policies, but he said farmers rely on international markets for their goods.
“I think we’re headed down a very dangerous path here,” he said. “I’ve been very vocal with this administration that we cannot end up in a trade war. A long-term trade war is not good for our farmers, it’s not good for our manufacturers.”