GOP representatives break with Trump over tariffs

The region’s congressional members joined more than 100 Republicans in the House of Representatives to urge President Donald Trump to reconsider imposing broad tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Barbara Comstock and 105 other congressional leaders signed a letter dated Wednesday warning Trump of the unintended consequences such tariffs would have on American businesses and consumers.

Jeff Marschner, Comstock’s deputy chief of staff, provided a statement via email Thursday.

“The Congresswoman is concerned that these tariffs would amount to a tax increase and in turn have the potential of stifling the economic growth we have been seeing since the passage of the tax reform package that passed late last year,” Marschner states.

Goodlatte spoke to the Front Royal Rotary Club last week and at that time voiced concern about the proposed tariffs. Goodlatte commented on the matter via email from his spokeswoman, Beth Breeding, Thursday.

“Unfair trade actions by countries like China should be addressed, but we must ensure that broad tariffs do not have unintended consequences on American consumers, workers, and the economy as a whole,” Goodlatte states. “The letter signed by 107 House Members, including myself, outlines these concerns, and I hope the White House will take this under consideration.”

But the letter echoes Comstock’s fear that tariffs would amount to taxes hurting businesses and setting back any economic improvements.

“We are writing to express deep concern about the prospect of broad, global tariffs on aluminum and steel imports,” the letter states. “Because tariffs are taxes that make U.S. businesses less competitive and U.S. consumers poorer, any tariffs that are imposed should be designed to address specific distortions caused by unfair trade practices in a targeted way while minimizing negative consequences on American businesses consumers.”

The signers of the letter note they felt “privileged” to have worked with Trump to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The letter goes on to laud Trump’s “leadership” and regulatory reforms as helping to increase the competitiveness of U.S. companies.

Adding new taxes in the form of tariffs would undermine this progress, the letter states.

“If you do impose tariffs, key elements are necessary to minimize negative consequences,” the letter states.

The signers suggest that any relief remains narrow and excludes fairly traded products or those that do not pose a threat to national security. A “robust” exclusion process should be announced at the outset to allow U.S. companies to petition for and obtain duty-free access for imports unavailable from U.S. sources.

Congressional leaders note that the proposal should grandfather existing contracts to buy aluminum or steel to allow duty-free imports and avoid disrupting the operation and finances of projects already budgeted and underway.

“We support your resolve to address distortion caused by China’s unfair practices, and we are committed to acting with you and our trading partners on meaningful and effective action,” the letter states. “But we urge you to reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers. We are eager to work with you in pursuing a workable, targeted approach that achieves our shared goal.”