Behind closed doors, GOP senators push back on Trump consistently when he brings up existing tariffs on steel and aluminum or potential tariffs on automakers, according to Republican senators. But Trump doesn’t back down from his position: He says the threat of tariffs gets the attention of trading partners — like China — who need to permit more imports of American products.

“The president likes tariffs as a threat. I hope he understands that the auto tariffs damage the autoworkers” in Midwest and southeastern states. “And I know he cares a lot about them. So I’m hopeful that he won’t do that,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, where Nissan and Volkswagen have plants. But, he added: “If I were Japan and Europe, I wouldn’t relax.”

Whether GOP senators can head off another round of tariffs ultimately lies with the whims of the president. Administration officials have tried to reassure worried Republicans that the president has hit pause as he considers a trade report that would allow him to declare tariffs on the basis of national security.