Pennsylvania senator defends Trump tariffs hurting his state because maybe they’ll pay off someday

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) admitted that the tariffs are a tax on the American people, but still praised Trump for them.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) in September 2017.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) in September 2017. (Photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) likes free trade so much he literally wrote a book on it. He calls tariffs a tax on the American people. But now that President Donald Trump is using unilateral tariffs in a so-far-unsuccessful attempt to leverage China, Toomey is standing by his president over his own constituents.

China backed away from the table last week, leaving Trump without a trade deal. The man who ran for office touting his deal-making prowess has thus far been unable to make progress with the global power, despite his 2016 claim that, “When China thinks you mean it, when think they you mean it, they’re going to stop manipulating the currency and you won’t have to do anything, and you might even have free trade.” Instead, he slapped millions of dollars in new tariffs on Chinese goods — the latest in a trend since he took office.

The effect of Trump’s tariffs has been especially harmful to farmers and manufacturers, including those in Pennsylvania. A pro-free trade group estimated in October that Trump’s tariffs on China and other countries had already cost the steel industry in Pennsylvania $98 million. Rick Ebert, the head of the conservative Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said in November that thanks to Trump’s trade war and low commodity price, 2018 was “the worst year I’ve ever seen it.”

On Fox News Sunday, Toomey was asked about the harm the China tariffs are causing to his constituents.


“I actually think the President is right to challenge China,” he replied. “The tariffs are absolutely painful and dislocating. But if in the end we end up with an agreement that gives us a meaningful reform of China’s most egregious behavior, we might look back and say this is worth the price we are paying.”

Back in 2000, then-Rep. Toomey voted for H.R. 4444 to permanently grant “normal trade relations” to China.