But it is long past time for signals and symbolic measures. After all, Trump was barely in office when he yanked America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And while the 2017 Trump agenda centered on health care and tax cuts, 2018 has been dominated by Trump’s trade conflict with, well, pretty much everybody. This is exactly what candidate Trump promised, although too many in Washington and Wall Street bet that Trump’s 40-year hostility to free and open trade was really just empty rhetoric. How wrong they were.
If the GOP is really the pro-growth party of free markets, it must go beyond its squishy, cowering opposition to Trump’s trade war and start pushing actually binding legislation requiring congressional approval before levying tariffs using that national security justification. Congress should begin to reclaim the trade authority it has spent decades giving away to the executive branch. Such legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate by Republicans. But its chances look dicey at best. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Wednesday that while he opposes tariffs, he doesn’t want “to hamstring the president’s negotiating tactics.”