News

Jun 12 2018

Senate Leadership Blocks Up-Or-Down Vote on Corker Tariff Amendment

‘I Can’t Believe It,’ Senator Says

WASHINGTON – In remarks on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today sought an up-or-down vote on his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require congressional approval of tariffs designated under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

“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.’”

“I was asked to find a solution to this ‘blue slip’ issue, and I found one that’s used as customarily as waking up in the morning and drinking a cup of coffee,” added Corker. “It happens all the time. This in no way has any effect on our ability to pass the NDAA in a timely fashion.”

“I can’t believe it,” continued 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.’”  

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. 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. 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. As the floor manager, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) objected.

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