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Trump's 25 Percent Steel Tariff Puts GOP Lawmakers, Markets on Edge

President Trump speaks during a meeting with steel and aluminum executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Republicans responded with boos, and the stock market responded with a dump, to President Trump’s announcement today that he would impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, “and it will be for a long period of time.”

Trump threw out the numbers at the end of a White House meeting with representatives from the steel and aluminum industries.

“Pretty much all of you will immediately be expanding if we give you that level playing field, if we give you that help. And you’re going to hire more workers, and your workers are going to be very happy,” Trump said. “…So we’ll probably see you sometime next week. We’ll be signing it in. And you will have protection for the first time in a long while, and you’re going to regrow your industries. That’s all I’m asking. You have to regrow your industries.”

“It’s being written now,” Trump told reporters after confirming the tariff percentages.

The Dow dropped 420 points after Trump’s announcement; the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 each declined 1.3 percent.

“The speaker is hoping the president will consider the unintended consequences of this idea and look at other approaches before moving forward,” Paul Ryan’s spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) slammed the proposed tariffs as “a huge job-killing tax hike on American consumers.”

“While I am sympathetic to the issues facing domestic steel manufacturers, there must be a better way to address the steel industries concerns, and I hope Congress and the executive branch can identify an alternative solution before these tariffs are finalized next week,” Lee said.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) noted in a statement that American manufacturing “is expanding at its fastest pace since 2004, but this proposed tax would slam the brakes on the pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda that Congress and the president have been fighting for.”

“Georgia has made great strides in attracting manufacturing jobs and building our workforce to meet that new demand,” said Isakson. “These tariffs on aluminum and steel are not only a new tax on American consumers, but also an impediment to economic growth. It is my hope that the administration will work to address unfair trade policies and overcapacity by certain global actors that have plagued these industries, but with a targeted approach that does not harm American workers and consumers.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the administration wouldn’t discuss the tariffs until details were finalized.

“The president is concerned about the men and women of this country who have been forgotten about, the industries that our country was founded and built on. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody,” Sanders said. “This is something, frankly, the president has been talking about for decades, certainly something he talked about regularly on the campaign trail, and something that he’s delivering on, making that clear today. And those details and that actual announcement and signing will take place sometime next week.”

Sanders reiterated the same points when asked if Trump is concerned about the market plunge and fears over a trade war.

Tweeted Trump, “Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!”

For the hand-wringing on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill, Trump’s announcement did find fans among the union bosses.

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard applauded Trump’s announcement. “For the USW, the objective has always been to restore market-based economics that ensure that our domestic producers can achieve a fair return as they invest in facilities, equipment and people, and contribute to the strength of our nation. The objective should also be to reduce the negative impact of steel and aluminum imports that have decimated production in the United States,” he said. “The tariff levels the president announced will help to achieve that objective.”

Politico reported that a trade war may mean the exit of Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, who for a “frantic” 24 hours reportedly tried to talk Trump down from imposing the steep tariffs.