Dems Split On Lifting This Trump Policy

By Jacob Taylor | Friday, 27 May 2022 12:00
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Following increasing inflation and bad poll numbers, Democratic lawmakers are split on whether to get rid of Trump-era tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in goods imported from China, which some Democrats think would lower costs for consumers.

Vulnerable Democratic senators from two key battleground states, Arizona and Nevada, are concerned in particular that the administration may wind up putting fines on Chinese manufacturers of solar panels that have expanded their operations into Southeast Asia.

However, tariffs on imports are popular with labor unions and with voters in key presidential swing states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — states that could decide who controls the White House after the 2024 election.

The debate within the Senate Democratic Conference is made more complex by divisions within the Biden administration.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo favor easing tariffs, while national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai oppose dropping tariffs on China, according to a New York Times report published Monday.

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The political divide is visible among Democratic lawmakers, who have opposing interests heading into the midterm elections and are just beginning to discuss what to do about tariffs while they still control both chambers of Congress.

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Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, on Tuesday challenged the effectiveness of tariffs on Chinese goods and said that easing tariffs could help reduce inflation, which has become the Democrats’ biggest political problem.

“The tariffs haven’t been as effective as they think,” she said, adding that easing tariffs “could help relieve some of the costs that people are seeing.”

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“I hope that they’ll consider it,” she said.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who is meeting a challenging reelection race in Arizona, showed concern that a Commerce Department tariff investigation on solar panels imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam could have a major impact on his home-state economy.

If the investigation concludes that solar panels imported from these countries used Chinese parts that should have been subject to tariffs, it could result in huge retroactive tariffs — in some cases exceeding 200 percent, experts estimate.

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“We have a big solar industry and we’ve got supply-chain issues and that’s why a lot of costs are high,” Kelly said Tuesday.

“The bigger concern right now is that because of the investigation the suppliers in those countries just decided because of the possibility of retroactive panels, they’re not going to ship any more panels,” he said. “We’ve got Arizona companies that are really worried about the future and to be able to start projects or complete projects.”

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