Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, with President Trump last November. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday afternoon:

More than 100 House Republicans have signed a letter to the White House objecting to President Donald Trump’s proposal to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a day ahead of the expected unveiling of the plan.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the letter aims to pressure Mr. Trump to “reconsider the idea of broad tariffs with many unintended negative consequences.” In the letter, House Republicans urge him to instead target “the bad actors,” Mr. Brady said.

The letter from 107 members was sent to the White House on Wednesday. In conjunction with the letter, Brady released a statement “urging the President to tailor these tariffs so American businesses can continue to trade fairly with our partners, sell American-made products to customers all over the world, and hire more workers here at home.” There was no hint that Congress might decide to reclaim its power, delegated in part to the president, to legislate tariffs. There was no suggestion that tariffs, in fact, harm national security and our relations with allies. They do not have the temerity to suggest any tariffs would be harmful. Rather they says that “tariffs are taxes that make U.S. businesses less competitive and U.S. consumers poorer” — so please make them as narrow as possible. (?!) That’s hardly a principled argument (just hurt consumers a little, please).

By contrast, the conservative Republican Study Committee issued a much stronger statement. “Free trade and free markets have led to the greatest reduction in global poverty in the history of mankind,” the RSC wrote. “Government imposed barriers to materials, labor and capital are disruptive to modern supply chains and represents liberal central-planning in its worst, most arrogant form.”

Well, we have discovered that if they really put their minds to it, Republicans on the Hill can speak out when the president violates a tenet of conservatism. Unfortunately, they did better on free trade than they did for “dreamers”; or in response to his obnoxious moral equivalence comparing neo-Nazis to counter-protesters; or for his comment about “shithole” countries; or for his endorsement of Roy Moore; or for his smears against the FBI; or for his attacks on the First Amendment; or for his refusal for over a year to cite Russia for interfering in our election; or for his failure to take action to protect our electoral system from Russian tampering; or for his embrace of autocrats such as Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines; or for his referring to Democrats as “un-American” and “treasonous”; or for his failure to fill hundreds of government positions (thereby hollowing out government); or for his racist Muslim travel ban; or for his debt-creating tax plan; or for his efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act with no sufficient alternative; or for his policy of going after marijuana users (who are overwhelmingly non-white); or for his effort to slash legal immigration (which is critical to growth and entrepreneurism); or for his failure to address rampant misuse of travel privileges by his Cabinet secretaries; or for his employment of unqualified relatives; or for his refusal to divest himself of his holdings and to refuse any foreign emoluments; or for his refusal to release his tax returns; or for his indifference to his staff’s violations of the Hatch Act and other rules.

You get the idea.

House Republicans have been utterly ineffective in checking Trump’s unacceptable conduct and horrible policy moves because they have chosen to be. Under the guidance House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), they have swallowed their pride, abandoned their principles, shelved their nerve and forgotten their oaths on virtually every topic from debt to democracy. I trust losing the majority in the midterms would induce some self-reflection.