WASHINGTON - Texas Rep. Kevin Brady's patience over President Donald Trump's trade war appears to be wearing thin.
The GOP chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee just gave one of his strongest public warnings to date that the U.S. is on the verge of launching a "long, multi-year trade war between the two largest economies in the world that engulfs more and more of the globe."
"Despite the serious economic consequences of ever-increasing tariffs, today there are no serious trade discussions occurring between the U.S. and China, no plans for trade negotiations anytime soon, and seemingly little action toward a solution," Brady said, urging the U.S. and China to meet.
That alarm bell came late Tuesday after the U.S. said it plans to levy tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, building upon escalations that have already put Texas in the crosshairs.
Brady isn't the only Texan ramping up the pressure, either. Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz on Wednesday joined an overwhelming majority of the Senate in supporting a non-binding measure that would seek to give lawmakers a more assertive role in tariff decisions.
"Texans know that preserving an open global market for our goods promotes commerce, creates jobs, and keeps prices low at home," Cornyn said.
Why this is important
Brady's warning may be measured by normal political standards.
But the Republican from The Woodlands is known for his restraint, particularly when speaking in public about Trump. Any dialing up in Brady's rhetoric is notable, in part because his perch atop House Ways and Means means he's in a position to help force the issue.
So while Brady is now just asking Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to hammer out a deal, more substantive steps could follow.
What's at stake for Texas
Texas and its trade-heavy economy are especially susceptible to a widening trade war.
Take the potential ante on $200 billion in Chinese goods. If Beijing retaliates in full, Texas' third biggest export market would be entirely covered in new levies. China last year purchased more than $16.4 billion in goods from the Lone Star State.
With the tariffs already in effect, Texas' agriculture and energy industries are already an impact.
Why this may not matter
So far Republicans in Congress have been mostly talk on trade.
GOP leaders have resisted legislative efforts to rein in Trump's trade powers, the Senate's vote on Wednesday notwithstanding. In any case, the Trump administration has not backed down, citing a need to confront China over unfair trade practices.
What Trump thinks about it all
The president has openly mocked pushback from Capitol Hill, riffing last week about what happens when he moves to put tariffs on countries that have been "ripping us off for years."
Trump said some politicians call him to say, "That's terrible." The president explained that he tells those lawmakers that the U.S. is finally "going to do something about it." He said the politicians respond, "Please, leave it the way it is." Trump said he ignores their advice.
"I say, 'No, no, we have all the cards," the president said at a rally in Montana, expressing disbelief at the exchange.
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