Goodlatte talks about tariffs, guns, taxes

U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, speaks during the Front Royal Rotary Club's meeting Friday afternoon at the Holiday Inn. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte expressed concern Friday about President Donald Trump’s plan to increase tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, spoke to the Rotary Club of Front Royal during its meeting at the Holiday Inn at Blue Ridge Shadows. Goodlatte touched on gun control, the recently approved tax plan and tariffs on certain imports. Goodlatte, who serves as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, also spoke on matters facing that panel.

The longtime congressman announced late last year he would not run for another term in November. Goodlatte told the group he hasn’t decided what he plans to do after his term ends in December. The congressman pointed out that he has  represented Front Royal and Warren County as part of his district only during the past six years.

Tariffs on steel and aluminum

“This is an issue the president talked about during his campaign and has struggled for a number of months now because trade, when you start imposing tariffs, has all kinds of consequences, some intended and some unintended,” Goodlatte said. “There’s no question that the U.S. steel and aluminum manufacturing is greatly suffering due to foreign competition – in some instances because of dumping in some instances because of state-owned enterprises that have all kinds of hidden subsidies that allow them to sell to the United States for less than U.S. companies, which are all privately owned and do not have any government support mechanism to deal with.”

U.S. firms such as Boeing or Caterpillar might suffer if  the cost of steel used to manufacture their products increases as a result of retaliation by other exporting countries, Goodlatte said.

“I think that we have to look at this very carefully,” Goodlatte said. “I’m not willing to condemn it as some people have already been condemning it but I’m also not sold on it, either.”

Countries such as China and those in the European Union use various kinds of tariffs and trade barriers to keep out American goods, Goodlatte said.

“So I applaud the effort of the president to address this but we have to look carefully at what the long-term implications are of these particular tariffs and what impact their gonna have on American consumers who may face some higher prices but also American exporters who either through a higher cost of the goods they make to export or the retaliation from the other countries could suffer from it,” Goodlatte said.


“It’s very important that we do what the president has asked us to do and that is to address a long-term fix for the DACA recipients – these young people who are brought here illegally by their parents in most instances,” Goodlatte said. “But it’s also important that we address the concern that the speaker of the house and the president and many others have that this problem of illegal immigration not be allowed to persist and even exacerbate, which is what happens whenever you provide legal status for people who are not lawfully here.”

The country experienced a surge of illegal immigration when President Ronald Reagan allowed immigrants to enter the U.S., Goodlatte said. Today the country sees illegal immigrants as well as people in the U.S. legally who overstay their visas, Goodlatte added.

“So they’re from every country in the world,” Goodlatte said. “It’s not about simply people from Mexico or Central America. This is about people from all over the world and while we’re a nation of immigrants – there’s not a person in this room who can’t go back a few generations or several generations and find someone in their family who came to the United States to better their lives for themselves, their family – we’re also a nation built upon the rule of law and respect for the rule of law is severely hurting particularly in the immigration sector, particularly when you have communities and now even the state of California identifying themselves and passing laws to make enforcement of our immigration laws even more difficult as has happened with so called sanctuary cities.”

Goodlatte cited Trump’s push for a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

“I think there are places along the 2,000-mile southern border of the country where that wall would be necessary and effective – high population and urban areas, places where there are high crime rates, that sort of thing where the drug cartels are heavily active,” Goodlatte said. “But where there are mountains, deserts or rivers you don’t need so much a wall as better technology and better use of the border patrol and personnel that we have today.”

Goodlatte blamed immigration attorneys for using loopholes to keep their clients in the United States and “to avoid being returned safely to their own country.”

Gun control

“The mass shootings are obviously an ongoing concern and tragedy to the people who find themselves in the midst of it,” Goodlatte said. “In my opinion, the lack of enforcement of our current gun laws is a major part of this problem.”

The perpetrator in a shooting in Texas last year had committed a crime of domestic violence who should have been flagged as ineligible to possess a firearm, Goodlatte noted. However, the U.S. Air Force failed to report the person’s information to a national database designed to flag people who try to buy firearms, Goodlatte said.

Some states do well at reporting this kind of information while others do not, Goodlatte added. Approximately 20 percent of the information on people with preclusions for buying firearms does not make it to this nationwide database, the congressman said. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation designed to improve the reporting system.

Later at the meeting, in response to a question from an audience member, Goodlatte said he does not support raising the age for the purchase of semi-automatic firearms. Goodlatte pointed out that the U.S. armed forces train people as young as 18 to use firearms. Goodlatte also said he supports the proposal to ban the production of “bump stocks” but noted a difficulty in defining exactly what the devices are.

Goodlatte said that thousands of people are found each year to have put false information on an application to buy a firearm but only a few dozen are ever prosecuted for committing the felonious act. In many cases, prosecutors drop certain charges related to the illegal purchase of firearms to secure plea bargains for other crimes, Goodlatte said. This practice takes away from the deterrent effect of enhanced sentencing provided by state and federal laws governing crimes involving guns, he added.

Tax “reform” legislation

“I think this is very important not just for the tax relief that I think is helping our economy but also for the tax reform,” Goodlatte said. “We have for too long had the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world at 35 percent plus whatever the rate is in the states.”

Lower tax rates should make U.S. companies more competitive and also encourage investment in the country, Goodlatte said.

Individual taxpayers also can see a benefit under the changes. The average family of four in the 6th congressional district should see their tax burden decrease by about $2,100 each year, Goodlatte said. Congress still needs to do more in the areas of taxing and spending, Goodlatte added, noting that one of his regrets is that members have not passed a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which he has presented in the past. Goodlatte pointed out that all but one state – Vermont – have balanced budget amendments in their constitutions.