Bredesen: ‘I greatly admire’ Corker and Alexander efforts against Trump tariffs

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen tells The Leaf Chronicle that Hemlock Semiconductor shuttered its $1.2 billion plant in Clarksville – launched while he was governor – because of a dispute between China and the United States over tariffs. The comment was a prelude to declaring his support for efforts by Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander to require congressional approval of President Trump’s proposed new tariffs.

“They closed up because of tariffs, you know,” Bredesen said after seeing a framed 2008 copy of the Leaf Chronicle featuring a picture of himself when the initial Hemlock investment was announced. He was on a tour of the newspaper office Thursday and most of the resulting report is on Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs.

His reference to Hemlock went back to 2013 when U.S.-exported polysilicon, the raw material for photovoltaic solar cells the company was to manufacture, was saddled with Chinese tariffs as high as 57 percent. The tariffs, according to reports at the time, came as part of Beijing’s retaliation for U.S. tariffs on imports of Chinese-made solar panels.

…“I really admire what Sen. Corker has been doing, and I know Sen. (Lamar) Alexander has helped him, to reassert some control over this, and certainly not using national security as an excuse for doing this political kind of thing,” Bredesen said. “I certainly support him on that, and I hope everybody, both Democrats and Republicans, will settle down and do that.”

Bredesen dismissed Trump’s criticism that he would tow the Democratic Party line if elected, pointing to his track record of working with lawmakers of both parties while governor.

“If I’m senator, my obligation is to Tennesseans, and what I think is best for them,” he said. “It’s certainly not to any party or for a president of either party. People expect you to be a check and balance. They expect you to be independent and to look out for their interests.”

Beyond the folks back home, Bredesen knows others are watching. While talking about business and industry recruitment, he mentioned an experience with Volkswagen representatives during negotiations to open a plant in Chattanooga.

He said they liked coming into a “stable situation” where two Republican senators and a Democratic governor “who obviously liked each other and were working together and cooperating to get stuff done,” which they didn’t find in some other places.

“It gives us comfort that we’re not going to get ground up in some political fight,” he quoted the executives as saying.

Bredesen said rather than adopting “a take-no-prisoners attitude,” one must be willing to work across party lines or work with people in different circumstances.

“You know, after doing this, it becomes a really important part of how you develop jobs,” he said. “I think it’s one of the things that clearly separates my campaign from that of my competitor.”

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