Angry Corker blames tariff amendment rejection on Republicans afraid to ‘poke the bear’ (President Trump)

Sen. Bob Corker chastised his fellow Republicans on Tuesday for failing to allow a vote on his proposal giving Congress the chance to accept or reject tariffs imposed by the president, reports USA Today.

His voice occasionally rising, the Tennessee Republican said in a fiery speech on the Senate floor that Republicans are afraid to give his amendment a vote because they fear angering President Trump.

“I can’t believe it!” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I would bet that 95% of the people on this (Republican) side of the aisle support intellectually this amendment — 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!” Corker continued. “Gosh, ‘we might poke the bear’ is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways ….The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment, so we’re going to do everything we can to block it.’”

The amendment in question is a bipartisan proposal offered by Corker and 13 other senators last week that would allow the Senate to accept or reject tariffs when the president puts them in place as a matter of national security.

Corker and the other sponsors offered the amendment in response to Trump’s recent decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies, a move that analysts said pushed the United States closer to a trade war. Trump imposed the tariffs by arguing they are needed for national security.

… The amendment in question is a bipartisan proposal offered by Corker and 13 other senators last week that would allow the Senate to accept or reject tariffs when the president puts them in place as a matter of national security.

Corker and the other sponsors offered the amendment in response to Trump’s recent decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies, a move that analysts said pushed the United States closer to a trade war. Trump imposed the tariffs by arguing they are needed for national security.

… Corker is offering his tariff proposal as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass bill that the Senate is currently debating and could approve later this week.

Further from the Times Free Press:

Corker last week was told that his amendment may have a so-called “blue slip” issue should it reach the House of Representatives, a technical issue that requires revenue-related legislation to originate in the House. He was asked by Senate leadership to fix the issue, which is what he sought to do on the Senate floor. Corker said he asked for unanimous consent to place the current NDAA text on a House-passed revenue shell.

Changing the shell of a bill is routinely done as part of the legislative process, including on the fiscal year 2017 NDAA.

Corker said such procedures are “used as customarily as waking up in the morning and drinking a cup of coffee,” he said.  “It happens all the time.”

He also asked that his amendment be called up and made in order so the body could vote up or down on the merits of the amendment. If his unanimous consent agreement had been adopted, nothing else related to the NDAA or where the Senate currently is in the process would have changed.

But the as the floor manager, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) objected, stalling Corker’s effort.

Note: The above video is posted on Corker’s Senate website, along with a press release on his remarks, HERE.

UPDATE: A day after his Senate floor speech, Corker had some follow-up comments to reporters in Washington. As reported by the Tennessean:

“We are in a strange place…It’s almost, it’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it? It’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of, purportedly, of the same party.” 

Corker, who is retiring from the Senate when his current term ends in January, later tempered his remarks by saying it’s not fair to make that criticism of every member of his party because some GOP lawmakers are willing to stand up to Trump.

But, “Is leadership in general not wishing to poke the bear?” he asked. “Absolutely because it’s all about the next election, right?”

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