“If we as a country begin claiming that every single item is a national security issue, what that means is that other countries will do the same,” Corker said…
The retiring Tennessee senator was angered that his amendment to the defense authorization measure that would reclaim congressional prerogatives on trade and tariffs would not be up for a vote, and he mocked his colleagues for not standing up to the president, including the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, Majority Whip John Cornyn.
“Gosh, almighty, I heard the senator from Texas, the senior senator from Texas saying the other day, well, gosh, we might upset the president. We might upset the president of the United States before the midterms. So gosh, we can’t vote on the Corker amendment because we’re taking, rightly so, the responsibilities that we have to deal with tariffs and revenues. We can’t do that because we’d be upsetting the president, the president of the United States. I can’t believe it,” Corker thundered from the floor.
Corker, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the president for overstepping his authority on slapping tariffs on aluminum and steel by simply claiming they were a national security interest.
“If we as a country begin claiming that every single item is a national security issue, what that means is that other countries will do the same,” Corker said on the Senate floor.
Corker’s amendment would provide a congressional review process for certain executive branch trade actions taken for national security reasons, such as those taken by Trump with respect to steel and aluminum.
But the amendment ran afoul of the House’s constitutional prerogative to originate revenue bills. Corker sought unanimous consent to swap a separate piece of House legislation to resolve the so-called blue slip problem, but Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Inhofe objected.
Inhofe, who is managing floor debate on the measure while Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., is absent, said he did not object to Corker getting his amendment heard but thought it was not appropriate for the defense authorization legislation.
The Oklahoma Republican said he did not like when Senators try to put amendments like Corker’s in must-pass legislation.
“A lot of people who want to put things that are non-germane and very often controversial,” he said. “They want to put it on that because they know it is going to pass.”
But Corker said it had “no effect” on the Senate’s ability to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for 2019.
Corker also said that in the year and a half of Sen. Mitch McConnell being Majority Leader with a Republican president, there has been only one amendment vote.
“We have been here a year and a half and because senators, United States senators that are elected by people in their state, don’t want to cast a tough vote; they block everybody from voting,” he said.
Corker also criticized Republicans because he said he would bet more than “95 percent” of Republicans agree with him ideologically.
“‘We might poke the bear’ is the language I have been hearing in the hallways,” he said. “The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment so we’re going to do everything we can to block it.”
For his part, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it was unlikely there would be amendment votes and placed the blame squarely on Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Paul’s amendment is related to the legality of indefinite detention. Graham called the amendment “ill-conceived.”
“The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the subject matter,” he said. “We’re not going to give it up.”
(Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.)
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