The proposed amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act would have given Congress a shot at overturning the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs. It was one of several derailed in a deadlocked amendment process for the bill.
Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for a vote to end debate Tuesday evening, setting the Senate up to pass the massive policy bill next week. This capped an impasse: Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee had their amendments to bar indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens blocked by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, so they were blocking all other amendments.
Earlier in the day, Corker, R-Tenn., who serves as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, rebuked GOP leaders for quashing his amendment to avoid blowback from the president. Corker, who is retiring after his term ends, has publicly feuded with Trump before.
” ‘Gosh, we might poke the bear!’ is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways. ‘We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment,’ ” Corker said in a fiery floor speech.
“I know that every ounce of power possible is going to be used to keep from voting on this amendment because, well, my gosh, the president might not like it, and, therefore, we as senators might be offending someone by … deciding whether we in fact want to assert some responsibility over a process of tariffing where we wake up, ready, fire, aim,” Corker said.
Corker has been a vocal critic of Trump’s decision to invoke national security to levy a 25 percent surcharge on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum from Europe, Mexico and Canada. On the floor Tuesday, he said he feared Trump is provoking retaliatory action and that he wanted to head that off.
Corker’s amendment would require the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232 — and that in turn would receive a vote within 60 days.
Corker said he would not hold up any other amendments just because he could not get a vote.
“For the last year and a half ... under leader McConnell, we have had one amendment vote. One amendment vote,” he said.
On Tuesday, Sen. Jim Inhofe, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, objected to Corker’s amendment, citing procedural reasons. He said after conferring with House colleagues, he was convinced inclusion of the “non-germane” amendment would jeopardize passage of the final bill.
“I would like to join Senator Corker in finding another bill, and I will do all I could to help him to get that on as an amendment, but not to the defense authorization bill,” Inhofe said. “I think this would cause a lot of damage. The House agrees with this. I can’t let that happen.”
Corker said outside the chamber that he would instead look for another piece of legislation to which he can attach his legislation, according to a report in The Hill.