Paul Ryan ‘Worried About the Consequences of a Trade War’

Spokeswoman says speaker doesn’t want to jeopardize gains of new tax law with tariffs

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., has concerns about President Donald Trump’s plan to impose new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan is urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his plan to institute tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, the highest-ranking Republican to push back on the plan. 

“We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said. “The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.” As speaker, Ryan is second in line to the presidency, after the vice president, under the Constitution. 

Trump on Thursday announced that his administration this week would impose a new 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

While Congress is unlikely to act before the president’s plan takes effect, congressional Republicans are considering actions they might be able to take down the line to subvert the administration’s trade policy. 

Those include explore possible changes to the provision of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 — known as Section 232 — that allows the president to impose unlimited tariffs if a federal investigations determines it poses a threat to national security. That provision is what Trump is citing as reason to impose tariffs. 

“There are some that are proposing some action,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. said, who said members are specifically looking at possible revisions to Section 232. 

“Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford. I encourage the president to carefully consider all of the implications of raising the cost of steel and aluminum on American manufacturers and consumers,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said last week. The Utah Republican’s committee oversees most trade matters. He was previously the highest-ranking Republican to voice concerns about the tariffs. As Senate president pro tempore, Hatch is third in line to presidency under the Constitution.

The president does not seemed moved by his GOP colleagues’ concerns. 

“No, we’re not backing down,” he said Monday of his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. His comment was in response to reporters at an unrelated event and came after Ryan urged him to reconsider the coming tariffs.

“I don’t think we’ll have a trade war,” the president said.

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John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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