Republicans appear helpless to stop Trump's trade war

Congressional Republicans who oppose the Trump administration’s mounting trade conflicts around the globe appear increasingly helpless as the president threatens more tariffs on top trading partners.

Donald Trump‘s ability to impose tariffs. On Wednesday, the chamber plans to vote on a “motion to instruct” related to Trump’s authority to levy duties which can recommend a course of action, but does not compel the president to make any move.

Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and one of the leading congressional critics of Trump’s trade policy, called the action “a first step toward reasserting Congress’s constitutional role on tariffs.” He said the motion will relate to Section 232, or the president’s authority to impose tariffs over alleged threats to U.S. national security.


Even if the Senate approves the motion, neither lawmakers nor the president have to abide by it. Deterred by the president’s veto power, the GOP-controlled Congress appears reluctant to take more concrete action checking Trump’s authority, even as many lawmakers contend the widening trade conflicts will harm both American companies and consumers.

Trump’s actions and retaliatory duties levied by China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union have so far affected only a small pocket of the U.S. economy, leaving it off the top of most lawmakers’ priority lists. It is unclear what amount of damage to consumers and businesses, if any, would compel a veto-proof majority of Congress to vote to check the president’s tariff authority.

Trump threatens more tariffs