EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — While House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and other lawmakers were outside of Washington the past two weeks, President Donald Trump and his administration prepared policy pushes for Congress’ return that will certainly spark Democratic backlash — and perhaps some from Republicans too.
Hoyer, in an interview here Thursday during a stop on his Make It In America listening tour, panned Trump’s plans to rescind funds from the recently passed omnibus, send the National Guard to defend the southern border and impose additional tariffs on China that would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy.
Rep. Ron Kind, a moderate Democrat who represents Eau Claire and surrounding areas of northwest Wisconsin, was also critical of Trump’s latest moves. The Ways and Means member was especially distraught by Trump’s recent actions on trade.
“I’m on the Trade Subcommittee, so we’ve had a lot of bipartisan discussions. A lot of our Republican colleagues are disenchanted with the president’s trade agenda overall, but especially this unilateral tariff action that he’s taking, which will invite retaliation [and] could potentially spark a trade war between the two largest economies on the planet, which won’t be good for anyone,” Kind said.
With the president drifting away from a more global trading rules system that the United States has led on since World War II, Congress needs to reassert its authority on trade, he said.
Watch: What to Expect, and Not Expect, From the House After Recess
“Constitutionally, it’s supposed to be ours to begin with,” Kind said. “We grant [Trade Promotion Authority] to presidents to go out and negotiate, but we need to be conducting more hearings, more oversight, tough questions of where the administration is going.”
Kind says a lot of Republicans seem willing to push back on the administration’s trade policy and he’s working on bipartisan legislation that would do so.
“We hope to introduce that shortly,” he said, declining to preview details of his proposal.
Hoyer also said he senses “great nervousness” among Republicans that Trump’s imposition of tariffs would negatively impact their constituents. Concerns have been raised around the country by the agricultural community and retailers whose businesses will suffer if tariffs are imposed, he said.
“Trade wars have proved to be very harmful to all parties concerned,” Hoyer said. “Now, I don’t necessarily mean that we’re on the brink of a trade war. But clearly the president’s comments have led to the articulation by an awful lot of our trading partners around the world that there is going to be retaliation if and when he follows through on what he says. And if there’s retaliation, it will have, obviously, economic impact on the United States, as well as other countries.”
Hoyer and Kind also criticized Trump’s plans to send Congress a rescission package proposing that some of the domestic dollars recently appropriated in the fiscal 2018 omnibus not be spent.
“I think this, in effect, welching,” Hoyer said. “They’ve gotten heat from their constituents about spending.”
The domestic funding agreed to in the omnibus was high because Republicans wanted to spend an extra $80 billion on defense, he said.
A deal to increase both defense and nondefense spending is not new to Speaker Paul D. Ryan; he’s now made three such deals, Hoyer said.
“Rescission is simply going back on the deal that he made and that his members voted for and that he urged his members to vote for and that the majority of our members voted for,” he said.
Kind noted that Congress can always adjust funding levels in future budgets and suggested Republican interest in reneging on the omnibus deal is not really about spending.
“This really does smack of political cover at this point,” he said. “So I don’t know where the votes are going to fall on their side if it comes up in the House, but we’re going to have problems, I would anticipate, on the Senate side doing this.”
Hoyer said he isn’t sure a rescission package could get through the House, citing “reservations” from Republican appropriators who helped strike the deal and who were relieved to have the resources needed to meet the obligations in the spending measures they oversee.
Trump’s border security push was also met with skepticism by Hoyer, who said he opposes sending the National Guard to the southern border. He cited significant increases in border patrol agents and noted that additional technical security measures, as proposed in bipartisan legislation, could be approved.
However, Hoyer noted that Democrats will not negotiate with Trump on any border security proposal he sends Congress unless it also includes protections for so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.