Possible Trade War — Who's In Charge Here?

Some people’s eyes glaze over when they hear the phrase “international trade.” I get that. But with international trade supporting more than one in five jobs in this country, from farms to factories, we’d better focus! Don’t get me wrong. Ohio needs more high-paying jobs, and we need national and state-level leadership to deliver them. But we won’t create jobs or expand our economy by blowing up the rules governing international trade. Yet that’s exactly what the White House has been doing for weeks now in moving ever closer to a deadly tariff war (the mere possibility is already straining the global economy).

The President’s decision to move ahead with ill-advised steel tariffs alone is causing a firestorm, both fracturing relationships with our closest allies, and risking punishing retaliatory tariffs that would hurt consumers, our workforce and our economy. Ironically, the President’s advisers have been divided among themselves, with key Cabinet voices urging against the use of the tariff weapon. Why didn’t Congress step in weeks ago to prevent the White House from jumping off this cliff? After all, the it's Congress that has the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”

Jim Jordan went on Bloomberg on Friday to discuss the tariff issue. Watch for yourself, but to me it seemed like Jordan's bottom line was "Gotta wait and see" and "Let's hope..." In short, here's a Republican Congressman, and a Republican Congress, that is unwilling to take any leadership even as he acknowledges that he's "concerned." He says he's for free trade—so what does he do about that? He says we need to give the President latitude to negotiate—but there's no negotiating going on with China. Instead, it's tit for tat imposition of tariffs and retaliatory measures. Congress’ inaction here is part of a deeper problem of their fear in challenging the president. Consider some other examples.

The President pressures the Department of Justice to release sensitive investigative information that could compromise its law-enforcement responsibility. Republican congressional leaders just shrug their shoulders.

The President issues executive orders that invite the Environmental Protection Agency to unravel the Clean Air Act. Congressional action? None!

The President okays forcibly separating asylum seekers from their children. The world looks on in horror, but where’s the congressional pushback? Where are the hearings?

Don’t you begin to wonder what happened to Congress’ role as a co-equal branch of government? Or to put it differently, who’s in charge here? Congress is supposed to be a check on the presidency. That’s at the heart of our Constitution. Have Congressmen forgotten their oath of office and their pledge to uphold the Constitution?

Those of us who are deeply concerned about White House suggestions or hints that the President could fire the Special Counsel worry about the constitutional crisis that step could create. In a sense, though, we’re already experiencing a kind of constitutional crisis, since Congress consistently fails to exercise its responsibility and gives the President a completely free hand, even when our chief executive acts impulsively and recklessly.

Let’s be clear. What’s happening today differs profoundly from the way our government has worked in the past, where Congress provided checks and balances even when one party held both houses of Congress and the presidency. What’s happening—or actually, what’s NOT happening—is because there’s something profoundly wrong with Republican Party Leadership. But don’t take my word for it. Consider what John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House, said last week: "There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump Party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Our Republican Congress has been napping too long, especially when it comes to carrying out any kind of oversight and independent check on questionable White House decision-making. Not only is Congress failing here, but, as I wrote recently, so is our Congressman, Jim Jordan. And as anyone who’s held a job knows, when you nap on the job, you should expect to get fired.

And that takes us back to my earlier question: who’s in charge? I know that if I were your representative in Washington, I'd ensure that Congress is a co-equal branch of government.

What’s so critical in our system of government is that you, the voters, are ultimately in charge. This November is your opportunity to take charge!

Janet GarrettComment