GOP Sen Gardner on Opposition to Trump Tariffs: ‘We Have Some Legislative Tools at Our Disposal’

Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said the Senate had “some legislative tools” they can use to oppose President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Partial transcript as follows:

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are also one of about 100 Republicans who have urged the president to reconsider these tariffs on steel and aluminum he signed off on this week. He’s not changing his mind. So what kind of legislative work around are you proposing?

SEN. CORY GARDNER Well we have some legislative tools at our disposal. The question is of course how do we get that to the president for his signature. Our Founders set up a, a system where the president has to agree with legislation that comes out of Congress. There are ways that we can narrow the framework that the president is using to increase or, or levy those tariffs. There are things that we can do. But I think most importantly is this a recognition that we agree on fair trade deals, that we agree that we want the United States treated in a way that we’re treating other nations and if we can do better than we should do better. But I’m concerned that a, a tariff can result in a tax on the very same people that we’re trying to help in this economy, that they could actually be hurt instead of being helped by this action. So, let’s work and spend the next few weeks trying to figure out exactly how narrowly tailored these tariffs can be, go after the bad actors. If that’s China, then let’s make sure that we hold them accountable and responsible.

But I spoke with the CEO of EVRAZ steel mill in Colorado, Conrad Winkler. We talked a little bit about just the impact that NAFTA would have on them if we were to withdraw doubled with the steel tariff. He’s very grateful that Canada has been removed from the steel tariffs. Who else is going to be removed from this process? We’ll wait and see. But I think there’s a lot of conversations that we need to have with this White House to make sure that the economic benefit outweighs economic harm of such tariff actions.

BRENNAN: Would you ask for a carve-out for countries that have a security relationship with the United States like South Korea, Japan?

GARDNER: I think it’s incredibly important that we have our allies standing with us not just on the economy, but on security matters. And if you look at the North Korea situation, what South Korea is dealing with, what Japan is dealing with. And that’s why a lot of the times when I talk about North Korea I talk about the trilateral relationship between Japan, South Korea and the United States. This isn’t just the United States alone, it’s not just South Korea alone. This is an important relationship that we have to get right. So, if Japan is cheating us then let’s- let’s get that fixed, but right now what we ought to be focusing on is how we can get this right for the economy, open up new opportunities to trade not fewer. Let’s hold the responsible actors like China responsible for their actions —

BRENNAN: Right.

GARDNER: — and not bring our friends into a way that could cause harm.

BRENNAN: Last night at a Pennsylvania rally, President Trump said Ronald Reagan was not great on trade. Is the Republican agenda still pro free trade?

GARDNER: You know absolutely there is — I think everyone in Congress agrees that opening up new markets is better for the United States —

BRENNAN: Do you disagree with the president?

GARDNER: The president’s not wrong when he says- the president is not wrong when he says that we need fair deals. If somebody is taking advantage of us if, if our markets are open and nobody has — and they’re not paying tariffs to get into this country, but yet we turn around and have to pay tariffs to get into their country, then something’s wrong with that. I think the American people understand that. But where we’re going to get this wrong is if we start into a trade war that results in our allies penalizing us, increasing costs of consumer goods, making it more difficult for the American people to afford goods that they commonly buy at the grocery store. I’m particularly concerned about the impact this could have on agriculture because agriculture is really going to be on the frontlines —

BRENNAN: Right.

GARDNER: — of any kind of a trade retaliation that we see. And I’m in a, in a big ag state right here where most of our top 10 exports are agriculture. So we have to get this right. We have to narrowly tailor this to the bad actors. I do believe that in general, tariffs are a tax on the American people and the people who are going to be harmed by this are the very people who are- who are trying to help so much that the people have struggled far too long over the past decade that haven’t seen a wage increase in years.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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