Politics

Midwest Lawmakers United Against Tariffs as Trump Unveils Farm Bailout

Administration wants to send $12 billion to farmers affected by trade war with China, EU

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said the White House's $12 billion agriculture bailout was like a pair of "gold crutches" after tariffs cut off farmers’ legs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers from the Midwest are sticking together in their criticism of President Donald Trump for the White House’s bailout proposal for farmers acutely feeling the recoil of a trade war the president himself started.

Across party and ideological lines, senators and House members from Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, and elsewhere across the Midwest assailed Trump’s plan to send an additional $12 billion to farmers affected by Chinese and European counter-tariffs on U.S. agriculture.

The federal government already subsidizes U.S. agriculture with roughly $10 billion a year to help market goods and buy surplus crops.

“This is becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters Tuesday. “I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska likened Trump’s trade policies to chopping off farmers’ legs and replacing them with a $12 billion pair of “gold crutches.”

“America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world,” Sasse said in a statement.

He likened Trump’s tough trade tactics to those that brought on the Great Depression.

“This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”

The White House has spun the trade war as demonstrating America's willingness to get tough on what Trump sees as unfair trade deficits for goods like steel and aluminum from China and Europe.

Last week, he threatened to escalate the conflict even further and impose tariffs on all $500 billion of Chinese goods.

As Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue laid out the new proposal Tuesday, Democratic and Republican lawmakers doubled down in their united outrage over the self-inflicted economic wounds from Trump’s tariffs on Chinese and European goods, which he is now trying to cover with a $12 billion bandage.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday that farmers would “much rather have long-term contracts than short-term aid.”

And in the Midwest, House Democrats are largely pinning the blame on Trump for economic hardships their constituents in agribusiness are confronting.

“This bailout is necessary because of what is happening out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois said on Fox News Radio Wednesday. “This is all self-induced by President Trump. He is the one that has gotten us in this trade war.”

Earlier in the same program, Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher echoed Johnson’s concerns about Trump’s protectionist trade policies.

“The 12 billion dollar bail out is what we in the military would call self-licking ice cream cone and it confirms what we’ve known all along which is that tariffs are taxes and hurt American consumers, manufacturers and farmers,” he said.

“Right now, that is exactly what we’re seeing,” he added.

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