"We might poke the bear!": Sen. Corker calls out GOP over fear to anger Trump on tariffs

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker got heated on the Senate floor Tuesday, taking aim at his party's fear to upset President Trump. (Images: US Department of State, The White House)

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker got heated on the Senate floor Tuesday, taking aim at his party's fear to upset President Trump.

“I can’t believe it,” says Corker. “I would bet that 95 percent of the people on this side of the aisle support intellectually this amendment. I would bet that. I would bet higher than 95 percent. And a lot of them would vote for it if it came to a vote. But, no, no, no. ‘Gosh, we might poke the bear,’ is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways If people don’t like it, they can vote up or down. People can vote up or down. But, no, the United States Senate right now, on June the 12th, is becoming a body where, ‘Well, we’ll do what we can do, but, my gosh, if the president gets upset with us then we might not be in the majority. And so let’s don’t do anything that might upset the president.’”

Sen. Corker is arguing that Republicans were blocking his amendment that would limit Trump's authority when it comes to tariffs.

“I haven’t heard a single senator on our side that hasn’t expressed concern to the president directly about what’s happening with tariffs,” said Corker. “Our farm folks are worried about NAFTA. Our auto manufacturers are worried about Canada and Mexico and what’s happening in Europe. Our steel and aluminum folks are concerned. I haven’t heard a person that hasn’t had some degree of concern. And all my amendment would do is say, ‘Look, Mr. President, you go negotiate, but when you finish, come back, and as senators and as House members, let us vote up or down.’”

Corker sought to attach his proposal to must-pass defense legislation, but his attempt to force a vote was defeated when Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., objected.

Corker's amendment targeted President Donald Trump's tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum, as well as future tariffs imposed by presidents who invoke their authority to curb imports in the interest of national security.

Inhofe says inclusion of the amendment would jeopardize passage of the defense bill or delay its passage. Corker says Republican senators overwhelmingly support the concept of Congress signing off on such tariffs, but are afraid of upsetting the president.

Related: 'It's Trump's party now': GOP primaries show pitfalls of criticizing Trump


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