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Sen. Mike Lee Wants To Stop Trump on Trade

January 12, 2017

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Don't expect lawmakers to quietly accept President-elect Donald Trump's plan to use congressionally granted authorities to hike tariffs against offending countries, which could potentially spark trade wars. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is already leading an effort to find ways to rein in some of the executive power Trump would have on trade.

[Adam Behsudi| January 12, 2017 |Politico]

"We are not looking at repealing existing statutes, but putting brakes on the system," Daniel Bunn, an aide to Lee, said at a lunch event Wednesday at the free market-oriented Cato Institute. Lee was a vocal critic of Trump during the campaign and voted for independent candidate Evan McMullin. 

Trump has vowed to invoke any number of trade authorities Congress has granted the executive branch, including the ability to take "emergency" actions to unilaterally raise tariffs and withdraw from trade agreements. In a press conference Wednesday, Trump reiterated his threat to place a "border tax" on U.S. companies that move production overseas and ship goods back into the U.S. for sale. The New York billionaire has already claimed to have pressured Carrier, Ford and other companies to reverse decisions that would have sent jobs elsewhere.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations," but the legislative branch has delegated much of that authority to the president over the past century. Lawmakers could especially focus on pulling back Trump's trade powers if he takes actions that target specific companies, Bunn said. 

"Are we turning the clock back?" he asked. "How far do we turn the clock back? What does that look like? These are all questions we are considering."


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  • It gets me when those advocating the establishment position warn about the dangers of a trade war. Our massive trade deficit which causes loss of entire industries, good jobs, and future technological progress is, in effect, an existing trade war—one we are losing badly. Not fighting back is like telling someone who is being beaten to death to not resist because it might make his would-be murderer angry.