Republican Lawmakers Oppose Administration Tariffs on Auto Imports
The Trump administration is catching flack for it is investigation of tariffs on auto imports on national security grounds, including from the president’s own party. The Commerce Department is currently investigating the issue and recently closed public comments on the matter.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, issued a press release on the subject, calling Commerce’s Section 232 investigation “deeply misguided.” “Taxing cars, trucks and auto parts coming into the country would directly hit American families who need a dependable vehicle,” he added.
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross jointly with a Democratic colleague, Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, stating they are “worried” that “tariffs on the automotive industry will put hundreds of thousands of American jobs at risk.” The letter argues that the tariffs will not help the United States economy or improve national security, but will cost jobs and threaten the growth of the automotive manufacturing sector in the Southeast. “Auto manufacturers and suppliers employ nearly 200,000 of our constituents and that number is growing,” they noted. “Over the past several years the automotive industry, including foreign manufacturers, has invested billions in our states and created thousands of jobs.”
Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), in a video posted on YouTube, said “I think this is a very bad idea. This is a bad path to be going on. It is bad policy. It’s a direct tax on American consumers.”
“I would really caution the administration from claiming it’s national security interest when it’s clearly an economic issue,” Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) told Bloomberg. “Unfortunately, prior congresses have given any administration an awful lot of authority in these areas. We need to start reclaiming some of that authority.” Other senators who have commented on the issue include:
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona): “The administration’s attempts to use mechanisms designed to ensure national security in an effort to enact protectionist policies should be deeply troubling to millions of Americans who depend on trade for their livelihood.”
Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee, quoted in The Hill): “I am very concerned about the president abusing the authorities granted to him in Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. “This is a dangerous course and should be abandoned immediately.”
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado, quoted in Roll Call): The tariffs would “backfire on those you are really trying to help” and would “raise the cost of goods and make it more difficult for american consumers.”
Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri, quoted in The Wall Street Journal): “The president needs to use the national security waiver in ways that I think visibly meet the test. I didn’t think aluminum and steel met the test. I certainly don’t think automobiles meet the test.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas, quoted in Roll Call): “These tariffs make me nervous because then you can retaliate in other unrelated industries like agriculture. I’m not comfortable with it.”
On the House side, Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas said in a press release that “the Honda Accord is not a threat to our national security. However, taxing it with trade tariffs is a threat to the economic security of millions of hardworking American families. Trade laws designed to uphold critical national security measures should never be used as an excuse for raw protectionism.”
Representative Andy Barr (R-Kentucky was quoted by Reuters as saying: “Toyota Kentucky is as much of an American manufacturing company as Ford in Louisville. It’s an American subsidiary of a Japanese parent, but it is an American company.”
Representative Roger Williams (R-Texas) noted in a Reuters piece that auto tariffs would negate the impact of the tax cuts passed by the Republican Congress. “They’re world vehicles,” he said. “Parts are made everywhere and they’re put together somewhere.”