Trump’s tariff policy has added challenges for GOP candidates as the party faces a difficult path toward keeping its House majority. Strong headline economic numbers have helped Republicans, but the economy alone may not be enough for the GOP to overcome increased enthusiasm among Democratic voters. Likewise, several prominent conservative leaders and groups, including the influential Koch brothers’ donor network, have criticized the tariffs.

“We urge the administration not to lose sight of the farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses across the country who are getting crushed by this misguided trade war,” said Tim Phillips, a top Koch network official. “Imposing steep tariffs and bailing out select industries with government subsidies isn’t how you punish China; it’s how you become China.”

The antipathy toward Trump’s tariffs partly explains why the GOP has brought tax reform to the forefront in recent days with plans to vote on a proposal to make individual tax cuts approved as part of last year’s Republican tax law permanent. The plan appears at least partly designed to put pressure on Democrats after the party contended the GOP plan did too much to help the wealthy and corporations.

Tax reform has polled relatively poorly and not given the GOP the messaging boost that it had hoped when the party passed the legislation in December.

— CNBC’s
Brian Schwartz
contributed to this report.


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