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Published: Thursday, March 01, 2018 @ 4:57 PM
Following through on his very clear campaign promise to stick up for American workers on trade, President Donald Trump on Thursday jangled the nerves of investors on Wall Street and Republicans on Capitol Hill, as he vowed to impose new tariffs next week on imports of steel and aluminum, a decision many GOP lawmakers said could threaten economic growth and even start a trade war.
"People have no idea how badly our country has been mistreated," the President told reporters, flanked by top industry executives at the White House.
"We're going to build our steel industry back, and we're going to build our aluminum industry back," the President said confidently.
"This is vital to the interests of the United States," said David Barrett, the head of U.S. Steel, as the Trump Administration would impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel, and a 10 percent surcharge on imported aluminum.
But while the steel and aluminum industry hailed the move by the President, the reaction on Capitol Hill among Republicans was negative, where GOP lawmakers were still trying to digest Mr. Trump's Wednesday embrace of Democratic plans on gun control.
"The President is proposing a massive tax increase on American families," said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). "You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one."
"These tariffs on aluminum and steel are not only a new tax on American consumers, but also an impediment to economic growth," said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
The announcement of Mr. Trump's decision - which caught senior Republicans by surprise on Capitol Hill - also ricocheted around the world, as other governments openly discussed possible retaliatory measures.
"Donald Trump made the biggest policy blunder of his Presidency," the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal thundered in opposition.
"This tax increase will punish American workers, invite retaliation that will harm U.S. exports, divide his political coalition at home, anger allies abroad, and undermine his tax and regulatory reforms," the newspaper continued.
For Republicans, President Trump has consistently represented a stance on trade that is heretical to Republican political orthodoxy, which has pressed for free and open trade as away to grow American exports, especially in the agriculture sector.
At a meeting with lawmakers last month, several Republicans warned the President - with television cameras rolling - against a move on tariffs, but Mr. Trump has made clear he disagrees.
"This is something, frankly, the President has been talking about for decades; certainly something he talked about regularly on the campaign trail; and something that he's delivering on, making that clear today," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.