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Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith / A Volkswagen employee wipes down the sides of cars as they pass her on the assembly line at the Volkswagen Assembly Plant in Chattanooga last year. Our senators fear Trump tariffs will hurt Tennessee's growing auto industry.

Politico's headline was gobsmacking.

"Republicans gobsmacked by Trump's tariffs," it states. The subhead is equally engaging: "GOP lawmakers thought the president was going to hit China, not key U.S. allies."

But the Republicans were only tangentially concerned about how much more we consumers might have to pay for things made from steel and aluminum — like cars and appliances, even tin foil — as a result of tariffs imposed instead on our allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Instead, they looked at each other and quietly talked of fear for the fall when the impact of Trump's 10 percent tax on aluminum imports and the 25 percent tax on steel imports likely will ricochet to make the Grand Old Party suffer at the polls in November's mid-term election.

The Republican free-traders who had been mollified in the spring when the Trump administration said it would exempt U.S. allies suddenly were fuming Thursday afternoon, according to Politico.

Publicly, of course, they talked about us. (And after all, it is "us" who vote.)

"This is a big mistake. These tariffs will raise prices and destroy manufacturing jobs, especially auto jobs, which are one-third of all Tennessee manufacturing jobs," said Sen. Lamar Alexander R-Tenn., who said tariffs are "basically higher taxes on American consumers."

"Imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on our most important trading partners is the wrong approach and represents an abuse of authority intended only for national security purposes," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. "If we truly want to level the playing field for American companies, we should be working with our friends and allies to target those actually responsible for tipping markets in their favor."

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., warned that similar policies 90 years ago sparked the Great Depression: "This is dumb. Europe, Canada, and Mexico are not China, and you don't treat allies the same way you treat opponents. 'Make America Great Again' shouldn't mean 'Make America 1929 Again.'"

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called it "bad news" and correctly predicted imminent retaliation from the key U.S. allies.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said there is "mounting evidence that these tariffs will harm Americans."

"These tariffs are hitting the wrong target. When it comes to unfairly traded steel and aluminum, Mexico, Canada, and Europe are not the problem — China is," said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says he disagrees with the Trump decision, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed "concerns."

But, wait. Have any of these folks shown any real interest in passing legislation to block the tariffs or require congressional approval? In a word, no.

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