Historically, the Republican Party has touted the virtues of free trade, the exchange of goods and services between nations without barriers. That orthodoxy had paved the way for trade agreements over the years, especially at times when Republicans were in control of the U.S. Senate. However, it has also been one of which former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been critical.
In recent years some of those trade agreements failed to live up to expectations and accelerated the decline in U.S. manufacturing.
During an interview with Huntsville, AL radio’s WVNN on Thursday, Sessions, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat he occupied for two decades and is competing in a contentious GOP primary on Tuesday, explained how attitudes on trade have changed among the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate and credited President Donald Trump.
He also praised Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a freshman U.S. Senator who defeated then-incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in the 2018 midterm elections, for his stance on the issue.
“It has shifted some because Donald Trump has shown it,” he said. “And we’ve got great people like [Sen.] Josh Hawley, who really get it, beat Claire McCaskill in Missouri — young senator, smart and articulate. He gets it, a lot, or totally. There’s still — I’m telling you there’s still a lot of Republicans in the Senate that seem to be totally into the free-trade camp — not a lot but enough to give us problems. And they’re not passionate about it. They are also soft on immigration. They say things like, ‘Aw, they just need a job,’ and, ‘We want to give them a job, and we want them to have a job.'”
Sessions took a dig at his rival, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, claiming he was one of those “soft on immigration.” He argued the time to make permanent changes to U.S. immigration policy would come after the presidential election, which he predicted would be won by Trump. He also said he was the best suited to be in the U.S. Senate for when that time comes.
“That kind of language, which Tommy Tuberville uses — that’s not it,” he continued. “We need a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest. We need to have a trade policy that protects American interests. It’s so important. And let just say — President Trump, I believe is going to be re-elected. I believe he is going to have a lot of wind behind his back. He’s going to be able to have a window of opportunity to achieve some things that may be of lasting permanence with regard to ending illegality at the border. We’re fixing our trade and deficits and standing up to our competitors. That can be done. But it is going to be a short window.”
“I understand these issues,” Sessions added. “I’ve been fighting for them for years. I really believe I can get our Republican congressman and senators off their duff, get them focused, and supporting the president in achieving this thing. And if we don’t get it done, we may never get it done. I’m telling you. It is going to be a window of opportunity.”
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