Much of the U.S. business community is deriding President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Members of Trump's own party in Congress are fretting over the prospect of a potential trade war with Europe and other allies.
As for red-state Democrats? If they can't exactly love the man, they can at least love his tariffs.
Over the past week, Democrats representing purple or red-leaning districts and states have embraced Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, issued late last week, despite broad suspicion within both parties ranks that they are not good policy.
Economically, the tariffs may make little sense for the U.S. economy as a whole, many economists say. Jobs in economic sectors targeted with retaliatory measures, such as aerospace, may be threatened while consumer prices may rise and growth in gross domestic product may slow.
Nevertheless, the protectionist measure is a political winner in Rust Belt towns and cities — where the domestic steel industry once thrived — left behind by broad shifts in the U.S. economy as the nation opened itself up to trade and manufacturing jobs moved to China and elsewhere
“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,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said last week.
Other Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, offered similar endorsements. Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, which leads the nation in steel production, offered conditional plaudits. "I’m pleased that President Trump is taking action, and I plan to carefully review the details of his proclamations," said Donnelly, who like Manchin is facing a tough reelection vote in November.
Both Brown an Manchin are up for reelection in 2018 in states Trump won during the campaign by 8 and 42 points, respectively. Donnelly will also face voters this year in Indiana, where the president won by 19 percentage points.
Democratic Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, who isn't running this year, piled on with praise for the president: “I commend the president for announcing his intent to take action to protect our steelworkers from countries, like China, that cheat on trade.”
Nowhere, in fact, is the Democratic embrace on better display than in southwest Pennsylvania.
The candidates from both parties vying to represent the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, which will hold a special election today that is being closely watched by Washington, support Trump's tariffs wholeheartedly. Conor Lamb, the Democratic nominee, endorsed the tariffs immediately, saying it is time to “take some action to level the playing field here.” Republican Rick Saccone endorsed the tariffs too, characterizing the decision as addressing a “national security issue.”
A new Monmouth University poll released today, however, suggests that the tariff announcement is having very little effect on voters. Just 3 percent of respondents said they were more likely to back Saccone because of the tariffs and only 1 percent said it made them more likely to support Lamb (that's 96 percent who said they made no difference).
Despite campaigning like no other GOP nominee before him, Trump has governed in many ways like a conventional Republican. He promised to protect Medicare before flirting this year with reducing spending. He promised to rein in the excesses of Wall Street before ordering the rollback of financial sector regulations.
On the issue of tariffs, however, Trump has remained consistent.
Casey, Brown, Donnelly and Manchin represent onetime industrial powerhouse states where Democrats have lost significant ground to the GOP, even before Trump's nomination in 2016. The Democratic Party must hold on to their seats to have a shot at taking back control of the Senate.
The bigger question is how the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee positions himself or herself on tariffs and more broadly on Trump's protectionist stances.
Writ large, the Democratic Party treats Trump's tariffs like it does most of Trump's policy positions: with disdain. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, nearly three-fourths of Democrats oppose the steel and aluminum tariffs.
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— A hole in NASA leadership: Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., who has been the acting administrator of NASA since January 2017, announced Monday he will be retiring from the agency at the end of April. Meanwhile, the nomination process for Trump’s pick for the role, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), has stalled in the Senate over opposition from members including Florida Sens. Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R), as The Post’s Ben Guarino reports. In a statement on Lightfoot’s resignation, Nelson praised his years of service but urged the White House to “nominate a space professional for NASA administrator who will actually garner strong bipartisan support. The current nominee doesn’t have the votes.”
Democrats disagree with Bridenstine's past comments on climate change while Rubio is leery of having a politician lead the agency. A spokeswoman for Bridenstine told Bloomberg News that he “remains optimistic” about the confirmation.
— Trump vs. California: A federal court has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to implement regulations set in 2015 meant to protect against the creation of smog. The agency has until April 30 to comply with the updated standards for ground-level ozone, a major smog-forming pollutant, and designate areas that do not meet the requirements.
The court ruling was another win for California and other states in their legal fight against the Trump administration's environmental agenda. "The stakes are high," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. "The smog-reducing requirements at issue will save hundreds of lives and prevent 230,000 asthma attacks among children. That’s worth fighting for."
Meanwhile, the EPA is assessing what to do next. "We look forward to working with co-regulators to continue the designations process for the 2015 standards for ground-level ozone; we are evaluating the information provided by governors in February 2018 as part of that process," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.
— Pruitt’s pricey travel: EPA chief Scott Pruitt missed a deadline to provide documents to lawmakers regarding his travel (his penchant for first-class flights was revealed by The Post). House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) had asked the EPA to provide relevant documents last month, and gave the agency a March 6 deadline. The agency told The Daily Beast it has “been in contact with Chairman Gowdy and are accommodating his request as quickly as possible” and a committee spokeswoman told the news site it had “been in touch with the EPA regarding the status of our request.”
— Elsewhere in the court system: Trump's Justice Department late last week called on a court to dismiss a case challenging the EPA’s new policy barring grant recipients from serving on science advisory panels. The Trump administration argued against the suggestion that such a rule is a violation of federal ethics rules, per the Hill. “Plaintiffs make the extraordinary claim that the EPA’s effort to ensure a diversity of viewpoints on advisory committees that provide advice and recommendations to the administrator somehow violates government-wide ethics rules. But the directive that plaintiffs challenge does no such thing,” the Justice Department wrote in the motion.
— Probing PREPA: The House Natural Resources Committee said Monday it would probe Puerto Rico’s bankrupt power utility for allegations of corruption, including charges that officials took bribes to restore power to some locations ahead of schedule. “In one alleged incident," Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and other members wrote in a letter to the utility, "PREPA officials were reportedly paid $5,000 and provided free entry tickets, valued at $1,000 apiece, to restore power to San Juan area exotic dance clubs ahead of the scheduled restoration timeline."
— Utah national monuments fight: Patagonia continues its lobbying push against Trump's decision to reduce the size of national monuments in Utah. The outdoor clothing retailer signed a letter, along with other conservation groups, opposing to legislation meant to codify some of the changes. "Several lawsuits have been filed to challenge the president’s proclamation, and any attempt to make his actions permanent through legislation are premature and unacceptable," wrote Patagonia and a coalition of outdoor business groups.
— Make it 200: On Tuesday evening, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will deliver his 200th weekly address to Congress urging action on climate change. To mark the occasion, the Rhode Island Democrat will be joined by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other senators.
— What's missing: On Monday, the Interior Department released its five-year strategic plan through fiscal year 2022. As previously reported by The Nation magazine, the document makes no mention of climate change.
— Meanwhile: According to public records, a senior Interior adviser, Kathleen Benedetto who helps oversee the Bureau of Land Management, met with mining and fossil-fuel representatives about twice as much as she met with environmentalists. "Between March and November in 2017, she had approximately 45 meetings or calls with mining groups and more than 30 each with oil and gas groups and with environmental groups,” The Guardian reports.
— Oh, no: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre disclosed over the weekend that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer. He said in a statement the tumor was “relatively small." He continued: "Thereafter, I underwent successful surgery, followed by the post-operative treatment that is the standard of care for my situation. I was advised at the time that, with the surgery and subsequent treatment behind me, I should expect to be able to maintain my usual active lifestyle, including working full time, and that expectation has proven to be accurate."
— Another dire climate report: The federal government is nearly ready to release a major climate report that will contradictTrump’s views on climate, The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney reports: “The U.S. National Academies on Monday released a public peer review of a draft document called the U.S. National Climate Assessment, a legally required report that is being produced by the federal Global Change Research Program,” he writes. “The document, which is in its fourth installment, closely surveys how a changing climate is affecting individual U.S. states, regions, and economic and industrial sectors. The final version is expected later this year; the last version came out in 2014 during the Obama administration.”
— Using climate science for emergency preparedness: Relief organizations such as the International Federation of Red Cross are working with climate studies to determine how to dole out resources in emergency situations. “For example, if experts forecast an active Atlantic hurricane season, and we know that global warming is going to make the impacts worse, money could be budgeted to deploying sturdier shelters,” InsideClimate News writes. “Similarly, knowing that global warming intensifies drought, emergency food supplies can be sent to areas where drought is forecast before people die.”
— Not just Flint, Mich.: A new study published in the Lancet Public Health journal links lead exposure to 250,000 deaths from heart disease each year in the United States, a total "far higher than previous estimates,” USA Today reports.
— “It’s first-degree murder”: Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he is working on a lawsuit against major oil companies “for knowingly killing people all over the world.” “This is no different from the smoking issue. The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades, that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it. Then eventually they were taken to court and had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because of that,” Schwarzenegger told Politico’s Off Message podcast. “The oil companies knew from 1959 on, they did their own study that there would be global warming happening because of fossil fuels, and on top of it that it would be risky for people’s lives, that it would kill.”
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
- New America holds an event on how self-driving cars will reshape cities.
- Resources for the Future holds a seminar on the impacts of lower natural gas prices on manufacturing jobs.
- Atlantic Council holds a discussion on Venezuela’s oil industry.
- The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on DOE modernization on Wednesday.
- The House Natural Resources Committee holds a markup on Wednesday.
- ACORE holds its Renewable Energy Policy Forum on Wednesday.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the “Agriculture Creates Real Employment (ACRE) Act” on Wednesday.
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will testify before the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.
- Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies on Thursday.
- Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies on Thursday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds a hearing on abandoned hardrock mines on Thursday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on Energy Department nominees on Thursday.
— Florida's iguana problem: A team of wildlife biologists from the University of Florida has been deputized by the state to get rid of invasive iguanas by the most humane method possible. "The preferred killing method is blunt force trauma," The Post's Alex Horton reports. Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecology professor at the university, told Horton: "Death is instantaneous, as is destruction of the brain. No pain is felt by the animal."