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Toomey pushes for tariff relief

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, said Monday he’s not giving up in an effort to convince President Donald Trump to back down when it comes to what he termed a “trade war” with neighboring countries.

This year, Trump has imposed a number of tariffs on products from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, including a 25 percent tariff on imports of steel, and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. A Canadian retaliatory effort kicked in Sunday with tariffs on American-made products including chocolate, ketchup and other items.

The American newspaper industry, meanwhile, has been hit hard by up to a 30 percent tariff on Canadian newsprint.

“We’re picking winners and losers, and while it’s great for the very, very small number of paper mills who will get a higher price for their product, it’s devastating for the thousands of newspapers across the country that have just seen a huge spike in their costs,” Toomey said during an interview at the Times News office.

“It’s a bad idea. I’m trying to persuade the president to focus on what I see as the real problem in trade, and that is the behavior of the Chinese. Their strategy is to acquire Western technology by any means necessary, including theft of intellectual property, coerced technology transfers and very bad behavior. That is what we should be fighting very aggressively.”

Toomey has partnered with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, to draft legislation restoring Congress’ responsibility to have the final say when a president wishes to invoke the section of the trade law citing national security. The bill has 14 co-sponsors including many Democrats.”

While Trump has been willing to discuss the matter with senators he knows are opposed to the tariffs, Toomey said he’s unsure what the outcome will be.

“I don’t know of any Republican senator who thinks these tariffs are a good idea, but there are many Republican senators who are worried about picking a big fight with the president of their own party,” Toomey said. “I don’t know whether we’ll be successful in convincing him, but as time passes, I think the evidence that this is a bad idea is going to mount.”

Harley-Davidson, for example, recently announced it will not be able to manufacture motorcycles in the United States and sell them in Europe due to newly imposed tariffs. The only option then is to manufacture them in Europe and sell them in Europe.

That, Toomey said, is the kind of decision that hundreds and thousands across America are going to be facing.

Gun laws

Last week’s shooting where five people were killed at the Capital Gazette in Maryland, Toomey said, “underscores the fact that there really is no simple universal solution when it comes to firearms.”

“Here you have a guy who did not have an extensive or serious criminal history,” Toomey said of shooting suspect Jarrod Ramos. “He used a pump-action shotgun, an extremely common shotgun that people use for sport shooting. The cries to ban various categories of weapons wouldn’t come into play in this case. I’m not aware of anyone who has asked for a ban on pump-action shotguns.”

Toomey’s long-standing view has been that background checks need to be tougher when trying to acquire firearms.

“We have a system that tolerates allowing violent criminals and dangerously mentally ill individuals to buy firearms under some circumstances such as at a gun show or over the internet,” Toomey said.

“I support the Second Amendment. I’m not interested in banning categories of firearms, but if you are dangerous to society, then we have every right to make it difficult to buy those firearms.”

The votes aren’t there on the background check legislation yet, but Toomey is hopeful.

More than one Republican senator, he said, who voted against the legislation last time it was on the floor, approached him with an interest in talking about it.

“It’s not enough to get us to 60, but if we can pick up a few Republican senators we didn’t have in the past, maybe we can get closer,” he added.

Productive session

With what he called “two or three solid months of legislative work” left for this version of Congress, Toomey said he thinks “this will end up going down as one of the most consequential and constructive Congress in a very long time.”

Toomey cited accomplishments such as confirming one and almost certainly two Supreme Court justices, and 21 confirmed circuit court judges and three more to be confirmed very soon, the most for a president in his first two years.

“We are really remaking the federal judiciary,” he said.

In other highlights, Toomey pointed to Congress’ vote to open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, repealing the individual mandate on Obamacare and what he called “the biggest tax reform in 31 years.”

“The economy is extremely strong right now,” Toomey said. “Obviously there are some areas where it is not as strong as some other areas, but I think it’s as strong across the board as we’ve had in decades. We are beginning to see upward movement in wages and I think this is very likely a direct response of the tax reform.”