With tariffs becoming a wedge issue not only between the Democrat and Republican political parties, it also is revealing splits among the Republicans.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a leader of Georgia‘s Republican party, has leapt into the fray. Normally a reliable supporter of Republican initiatives, Mr. Isakson has become increasingly vocal in his opposition to President Donald Trump‘s trade initiatives.
Last week he joined U.S. Sens. Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, in supporting bipartisan legislation to prevent the U.S. Commerce Department from unilaterally imposing tariffs on imported cars, trucks and auto parts.
“I’m actively engaged in the debate on the use of tariffs,” he said in a prepared statement. “I’ve written the administration, questioned members of the cabinet and shared my concerns with the president that we must have a good strategy to reach our trade goals.
“Anytime the rules of the game start changing, it makes it challenging for businesses to decide to expand and invest. Businesses could be forced into tough choices that may be unnecessary. The proposed tariffs on autos would be a setback to an industry in our state that has provided more than 7,000 new jobs in the last five years alone. I am eager to do everything possible to ensure that we address unfair trade policies by certain global actors, like China, while protecting American workers and consumers.”
A comprehensive article appearing in the Aug. 6, 2018, issue of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with reporting by Michael E. Kanell and Tamar Hallerman, provides an overview of the importance of the $2.9 billion auto industry to Georgia’s economy.
Mr. Isakson’s support of a Senate bill introduced by Republican U.S. Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to allow Congress to vote on whether to move forward with Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from U.S. allies such as Canada and the European Union earlier this summer provided an insight into his views on tariffs.
Nowhere have they been more evident, however, in his July 15 testimony before the International Trade Commission against tariffs on newsprint and other commercial printing papers, especially in the face of Mr. Trump’s comments that media is the “enemy of the American people.”
“…of all the news media there are, there’s none that delivers a more quality insight into the issue of the day (than local newspapers),” Mr. Isakson testified, according to a prepared release from his office.
“The threat of losing the newsprint industry in this country…is a tremendous threat to the First Amendment, my ability to express myself and my ability as a businessman to see a product.”
Prior to his testimony, he sponsored legislation to prevent these tariffs from taking effect, the release says, on grounds that they “interfere with the market,” instead of correcting “market disruptions.”
“I’m afraid these market increases would affect the markets in a negative way, the information I’m able to read in a negative way, and the dissemination of information for the public good in a negative way. None of which are good for the American people or American business,” he said during the hearing.
These comments were in keeping with his co-sponsorship in May of the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018, which would spent the import taxes on uncoated ground-wood paper while the U.S. Commerce Department examines the health of — and effect of tariffs on — the printing and publishing industry.
As early as January, Mr. Isakson led a bipartisan coalition of senators in a letter urging the administration to exercise caution in its pursuits of a pending trade investigation involving imported newsprint and other commercial printing papers used by small-town newspapers in Georgia and around the country.
To read the letter stating that “printed newspapers remain a vital part of our country’s free press, which is a key component of our democratic governance and civic life,” click here.