Editorials

With local jobs in jeopardy, McCaskill and Roberts must slow Trump's war on trade

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (right) and Claire McCaskill, along with acting Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science William Bryan, headed up a 2017 agro-terrorism round table at the American Royal Complex.
U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (right) and Claire McCaskill, along with acting Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science William Bryan, headed up a 2017 agro-terrorism round table at the American Royal Complex. File photo

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Two U.S. senators — Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Pat Roberts of Kansas — could play key roles in relaxing the noose tightening around the necks of farmers, factory workers and manufacturers across the nation.

President Donald Trump fashioned that rope. He's ignited a trade war by imposing punitive tariffs on imported goods such as steel and aluminum.

To no one's surprise, America's trading partners have retaliated by erecting barriers of their own, taking aim at whiskey, motorcycles, even ketchup. China is expected to impose a 25 percent tariff on soybeans Friday.

We warned of such a possibility a month after Trump became president. Sadly, that prediction has come to pass.

The threat of a trade war has angered Republicans and Democrats. Readers who have weighed in on The Star's Missouri Influencer series said excessive tariffs are among the state's most significant economic challenges.

"Tariffs and trade wars benefit few and harm many," Mike Talboy, an Influencer and the director of government affairs at Burns & McDonnell, told us.

Influencer Jennifer Lowry, chief of section of toxicology and environmental health at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, agreed: "Manufacturing jobs are being lost to other countries because of the costs that are added with the tariffs," she said.

Studies reinforce that view. In a report issued Monday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said a trade war threatens more than 1.2 million jobs in Missouri and Kansas.

These arguments have been lost on the president, who seems determined to isolate America from the world marketplace, no matter how much damage that might do in this country.

Congress must step in. There is a place to start.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican, has introduced legislation that would curb the president's power to enact tariffs for national security reasons. Corker wants congressional consideration of those tariffs.

“People are being hurt," Corker said recently. "You saw the Harley-Davidson issue. They are going to move some of the jobs overseas to avoid these tariffs ... A tariff is a tax on the American people."

He's absolutely right. Yet Republicans and Democrats in the Senate — afraid, apparently, of angering Trump — have ducked votes on the Corker measure. Instead, it sits in the Senate's Finance Committee, awaiting consideration as a stand-alone bill.

That's where Sens. Roberts and McCaskill can help. Both have complained loudly about the impact of the Trump tariffs on their constituents in Kansas and Missouri. In statements this week, both offices told us they're working behind the scenes to find a solution to the trade war fiasco.

Yet neither is a co-sponsor of the Corker bill.

Roberts and McCaskill should cosponsor to the Corker bill as soon as possible. Additionally, as Finance Committee members, they should request immediate hearings and a mark-up to move a tariff bill to the floor as soon as possible.

Roberts particularly has a role here. He just shepherded the Farm Bill through the Senate — a measure without the Corker amendment. Roberts' complaints about unfair trade practices will seem like crocodile tears if he fails to either help the Corker legislation get a vote or find some alternative to the Trump tariffs.

Corker's measure wouldn't stop Trump completely. But something must slow down the president on this issue, or the nation's economy will slump, costing jobs in factories and farms across the country and right here at home.

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