WASHINGTON ― The Senate on Wednesday sent President Donald Trump a message on his actions on tariffs, which have roiled world markets and opened an escalating trade war with allies and adversaries alike.
Senators voted 88-11 to pass a motion introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) aimed at giving Congress a role in determining when the U.S. can impose tariffs on other nations on “national security grounds.” Lawmakers of both parties have accused Trump of abusing that power, which is given to him by Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum from allies such as Canada and European Union member nations.
But the motion, which was tacked onto an energy and water appropriations bill, is nonbinding and has no force of law. Moreover, it’s unlikely to be met with a similar response in the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters Wednesday that while he opposes tariffs, he does not want to “hamstring the president” in his negotiations with world leaders.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a critic of Trump’s moves on tariffs, said Wednesday that legislation addressing the president’s actions will be “the next step.”
“We need to go there. We have to go there. Those voting on this today need to know that’s where we will go,” he said on the floor.
Flake has been pushing for what he called a “substantive” vote to address the president’s tariffs for weeks. Last month, he began holding up some of Trump’s judicial nominations in an attempt to force him to change course on trade.
“This is a rebuke of the president’s abuse of the trade authority,” Flake said ahead of the vote on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, however, the Arizona Republican told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he would drop his opposition to judicial nominees now that senators had gone on record regarding the president’s tariffs, even though the motion does not compel the president to take any action or refrain from doing so.