Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democratic known for trashing President Donald Trump in the past, now finds himself forced into supporting the president’s steel tariffs as mid-term elections draw near in his Republican-leaning state.
Brown praised Trump Tuesday for foisting steep 10 and 25 percent tariffs on aluminum and steel products, respectively. His glowing support for the president’s trade policy contracts starkly with the Buckeye State Democrat’s previous barbs directed at Trump.
“This welcome action is long overdue for shuttered steel plants across Ohio and steelworkers who live in fear that their jobs will be the next victims of Chinese cheating,” Brown told Reuters earlier this month. He was crafting a different narrative in October 2017 when he called former Trump senior adviser, Steve Bannon, a white supremacist.
“I agree that Steve Bannon is a white supremacist and Stephen Miller seems to be. And I know that studies have shown that they have their allies sprinkled around the White House,” Brown, who is facing a bruising campaign for re-election in November, told CNN’s Dana Bash in an Oct. 22 interview.
Brown is not the only Democrat championing Trump’s tariffs. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, another Democrat in a Republican-held state, also signaled his support for protective measures, which contain an initial exemption for Canada and Mexico. The president is seeking to extract more concessions from both country as it renegotiates aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Both Brown and Manchin are up for reelection in 2018 in states where Trump rang-up double-digit wins. Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who came out in support of Trump’s tariffs in a March 8 press statement, will also face voters this year in Indiana, which leads the nation in steel production and voted for Trump in 2016 by 19 percentage points.
The Democratic Party, meanwhile, is treating Trump’s tariffs like it does most of the president’s policy positions — with raw, dripping contempt. Nearly three-fourths of Democrats oppose the steel and aluminum tariffs, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll,
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At least one Democratic lawmaker from a deep blue state has issued support for protection of the American steel industry. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who has been touted as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, said in recent interviews that she saw a role for tariffs as part of U.S. trade policy.
“I am not afraid of tariffs,” Warren said March 11 on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked whether she supports Trump’s trade policies. “We need a comprehensive rethinking of our trade policy.”
Free market groups and some conservative politicians argue such tariffs could erase some of the economic gains the country made during Trump’s first year. They believe that the tariffs could stimulate a trade war between the U.S. and China. Tariffs could also result in Europe raising prices on American imports.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, for one, called the tariffs “a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford,” in a press statement immediately following Trump’s announcement. Hatch, who has been one of Trump’s loudest champions in the Senate in recent months, urged the president to reconsider his protectionist positions.