Senate calls for role in trade decisions
Nonbinding measure is symbolic criticism of Trump’s tariffs
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is remaking the global trade order without significant political resistance or penalty, unchecked by a largely compliant Congress and bolstered by the loyalty of his supporters — even those likely to be hurt by his burgeoning global trade war.
The Senate on Wednesday passed a nonbinding measure calling for a greater role in overseeing Trump’s trade decisions, an implicit criticism of new tariffs the president has levied on some of the country’s closest allies and largest trading partners. But the vote has no power to prompt a course change from the White House. And it follows failed attempts to advance measures that could have given Congress new power to restrain Trump.
Congress’ passivity in the face of Trump’s escalating trade conflict is one of several factors that have made it easier for the president to push on. Others have included markets that haven’t melted down, business leaders who have done little beyond rhetoric to criticize the trade spat, and Republicans voters who have stood by their president. In each of these cases, critics of his trade policy had hoped Trump would find reason to be dissuaded.
The trade changes mirror Trump’s rapid and similarly unchecked efforts to reposition the United States in the global political order. The parts of the country most affected by Trump’s trade war remain supportive of the president for now.
Much of the pain has centered on soybean farmers, whose crops are exported widely and who’ve seen prices nosedive since the trade war intensified.
Though Trump has been making trade threats since the start of his presidential campaign, the opening rounds of tariffs are only now taking effect.
“He’s very true to what he said he was going to do during the campaign for president,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
For months, Roberts and other Republicans have been sounding the alarm about retaliatory tariffs on farm country and elsewhere, and warning that a trade war threatens the strong economy that will be the GOP’s calling card in the upcoming midterm elections where Democrats will aim to retake control of Congress.
The tariffs in place so far — and the retaliation from other countries — will cost the average family about $80 more a year, according to economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics.
Phil Ramsey, chairman of the Indiana Soybean Alliance membership and policy committee, said he speaks with other farmers and ranchers in his state.
“Most of us farmers are extremely patient,” said Ramsey, a 58-year-old soybean and corn farmer. “We dump hundreds of thousands of seeds and fertilizer into these fields. Then we wait for them to grow. We know it will happen.”