Thank you, Sen. Bob Corker.
Once again, the Tennessee Republican has shown the courage and common sense to speak truth to power with Donald Trump.
The Trump administration shocked lawmakers last week when it announced it would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from U.S. allies in the European Union, Canada and Mexico, a move Republicans had tried publicly and privately for months to discourage. In response, all three allies promised retaliatory actions of their own. Then on Friday, Trump added insult to injury, saying he was considering similar tariffs on autos and auto parts, and saying he "wouldn't mind" scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The result is a widening cleavage in the GOP about its previously unwavering support of President Trump.
On Saturday, Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted that two national news stories in The Washington Post and in The Wall Street Journal about the tariffs and Trump's attacks on some businesses. Corker said the stories felt "like something I could have read in a local Caracas newspaper last week, not in America. Venezuela, here WE come!"
A little later, Corker tweeted again, writing: "I am working with like-minded Republican senators on ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies. Will Democrats join us?"
Corker started Monday by backing up his words with action.
"It's interfering inappropriately in markets, so we're going to try and figure out a way to push back," Corker told CNN of Trump's action. "We're working on legislation to be able to negate the fact that [Trump's] abusing the authorities that were given to him under the national security waivers."
But it isn't just tariffs and markets that concern our senator, who has spent the past 12 years deeply studying America's relationship with the world.
"We seem to want to punish our allies and befriend our enemies." He added: "I'm opposed to the tariffs, but I'm also opposed to the executive branch abusing authorities [by using national security as an excuse and other legislative amendments passed in the 1960s delegating Congressional authority to the president to impose tariffs.]"
Canadian soldiers fought and died beside ours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now to call them a national threat is absurd. But whether there will be a large enough coalition to force legislative change isn't clear.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber as majority whip, and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, told national reporters they didn't see Congress tackling legislation to roll back Trump's authority on tariffs.
"I don't see any likely legislative remedy that the President would agree to, so why would we want to waste our time on a legislative solution where hopefully the collective persuasive efforts at the White House will get us in a different direction?" Blunt asked.
Clearly collective persuasion efforts haven't worked, otherwise we wouldn't be here.
Now political observers say the groundswell of dismay over the tariffs and over what Corker and others see as unjust actions against allies may have created a coalition made quite strong by a stranger set of bedfellows than just Republicans and Democrats. The Koch Brothers and a number of unions come to mind.
One also can't dismiss the very real Republican fear that tariff-induced costs on consumer goods in an election year might cast a long shadow over mid-terms.
For his part, Corker believes his push for legislation to retake Congress' authority to weigh in on presidential tariff moves using national security excuses (and retroactively for two years) is gaining momentum. He hopes to get an OK on the proposal during this month's Senate's floor debate on the annual National Defense Authorization Act — something that always gets a vote every year.
"There's a lot of interest in it, for what it's worth," Corker told reporters Tuesday. "But, you know, doing anything around here is like pushing a major boulder uphill, so we'll see." (Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has introduced a separate bill that would require congressional approval over trade decision-making, including tariffs. That bill also is backed by Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
Politico writes: "It's a long shot given skepticism from Republican leadership, but still a critical test of the GOP's willingness to take on Trump."
Thank you, Sen. Corker. You give rational Americans hope.