A pair of U.S. senators urged Congress on Friday to consider legislation that would rein in President Donald Trump on trade in light of tariffs his administration imposed on imported steel and aluminum.
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Speaking to farmers in North Dakota, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said "maybe we need to rethink" policies that give the president broad authority over international trade. She said Congress has to "assert the role that we have."
Heitkamp disagrees with the Trump administration's decision Thursday to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe, Mexico and Canada. The action has drawn vows of retaliation from key allies, and threatens to inflate prices for U.S. consumers and companies.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., voiced his displeasure with the tariffs on Twitter. He said he would add his name to the list of co-sponsors of a bill from Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah that would subject the president's trade actions, including raising tariffs, to congressional approval. Toomey said in a series of tweets that the tariffs "hurt American workers, employers, and consumers."
"Congress should assert its constitutional responsibility and lead on trade policy so Americans keep access to affordable goods and services, and the opportunity to sell our products abroad," Toomey said.
Many members of Congress have been outspoken in their opposition to the tariffs. Still, Republicans have been reluctant to pick a fight with Trump when it comes to taking up legislation. For example, Lee's bill was filed in January of last year and had just three co-sponsors before the administration's announcement.
GOP leaders have so far declined to lend their support to the bill, a must for it to gain the traction necessary to come up for a vote in the Senate Finance Committee and advance to the Senate floor.
Trump downplayed the reaction to the trade decision in talking to reporters Friday, saying "we're going to straighten out trade. The trade is going to be easy." He also said foreign leaders "essentially" tell him behind closed doors that "we can't believe we've gotten away with this for so long."
Trump is using a U.S. law that allows tariffs to be imposed for national security purposes.
Lawmakers from agricultural states are particularly worried about retaliation from Europe, Mexico and Canada. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, criticized the decision Thursday. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said "this is dumb."
Freking reported from Washington.