Nearly half of the House Republican Conference sent a letter to President Donald Trump Wednesday expressing “deep concern” about his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and outlined steps he should take to minimize negative consequences.
Led by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert, the letter reflects warnings that congressional Republicans have been communicating to Trump since he announced plans last week to impose a broadly applied 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.
“Because tariffs are taxes that make U.S. businesses less competitive and U.S. consumers poorer, any tariffs that are imposed should be designed to address specific distortions caused by unfair trade practices in a targeted way while minimizing negative consequences on American businesses and consumers,” the GOP lawmakers wrote.
The members suggested four steps Trump should take if he does decide to move forward with tariffs:
- Exclude fairly traded products and products that do not pose a national security threat.
- Announce a robust exclusion process to allow U.S. companies to petition for duty-free access for imports that are unavailable from U.S. sources or are needed for other extenuating circumstances.
- Grandfather existing contracts for steel and aluminum purchases.
- Conduct a short-term review of the effects of the tariffs on the economy should to determine whether the approach is working.
Watch: Ryan Says There’s a ‘Smarter’ Way to Go on Tariffs
The letter comes a day after Speaker Paul D. Ryanpublicly called on Trump to pursue a “more surgical approach” to the tariffs. The Wisconsin Republican had identified Brady as the point person working with the administration to address House Republicans’ concerns.
“We’re engaged with the White House and the president’s team. And we’re working closely with the president himself,” Brady told reporters Wednesday.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump might include exemptions for Canada and Mexico and other unnamed countries based on national security. The plan is for Trump to sign an executive order implementing the tariffs by the end of this week, she said.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker, one of the letter co-signers, said that a survey of his 150-some member conservative caucus revealed that 89.7 percent of them are “concerned about tariffs as a whole.”
Even if Trump scales back his plan through exemptions, “there’s still going to be concerns,” Walker said. “As far as pushback, drawing a line in the sand, I don’t think it’s going to get [to] that place. We’re just trying to connect with him in person in a small group and let them know that these are our concerns — not just now, but long-term what this looks like.”
Brady declined to confirm a meeting with Trump was in the works, saying, “We’re not talking about the process. This is a continual feedback loop with the president and the White House.”
The Texas Republican emphasized that his goal is to help Trump.
“Our message is pretty clear: We stand with you Mr. President on taking tough action against unfair trade,” Brady said. “And with the right tailoring, we think — and exempting fairly traded products that contribute to our national security as well — that our economy can grow and he can hit his target.”
John T. Bennett contributed to this report.