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Sean Duffy optimistic Trump tariffs will boost economy

Rich Kremer

Wisconsin Public Radio

Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy is sticking with President Donald Trump’s decision to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The northern Wisconsin congressman's support stands in contrast to concerns voiced by ranking GOP members of the state's delegation, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

During an early morning town hall meeting at the Abbyland Travel Center in the Village of Curtis, Duffy told a group of 10 constituents that he’s optimistic about the president’s tariffs. He said the move is risky but it could force other countries to drop tariffs and import taxes on American exports.

"If we get this right ... If you think tax reform is big and regulation reform is big, this will be more substantial because it will have a huge impact on our ability to sell our goods overseas and still pay great wages to our families," he said.

Duffy acknowledged, though, that Trump’s tariffs could spark a trade war that would hurt the U.S. economy. Already the European Union has announced possible retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods including Wisconsin cranberries and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

"My district has the largest production of cranberries in America," said Duffy. "It’s a big deal for us. I’m concerned about the growers. I’ve made that known to the trade representative on how important this is. But also, in the end I think we can be way better off for everybody and every industry if we’re able to get other countries to reduce their barriers to trade."

Other Republican members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation haven’t been as optimistic about the President’s tariff announcement. Ryan urged Trump to take more surgical actions against China. He later praised the president for exempting Canada and Mexico from the tariffs.

Johnson has called Trumps tariffs a "very risky action" that could spark a trade war.

Tillerson Out At State Department

During the town hall event, news broke that the president was replacing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with current CIA Director and former U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo. When asked about the shuffling afterward, Duffy said the transition should go smoothly.

"I served with Mike Pompeo," said Duffy. "He was elected in 2010 when I was. He is a great guy, he’s smart. So, if this is going to be a transition, I think it will be seamless, especially from Mike going from the CIA over to State."

Duffy said he’s not concerned about the unprecedented number of firings and resignations coming out of the Trump administration.

"That there’s some transition, that doesn’t concern me at all, especially when you have the results that we’ve had over the last 14 months with this president,” said Duffy.

Student Walkout For Gun Law Reform

Asked about recent statements by the president on guns, including a seeming reversal on raising the age to purchase AR-15-type rifles from 18 to 21, Duffy said he was unaware of policy shift.

"I haven’t followed his positions on that issue specifically," said Duffy. "I saw some clips of his meetings in the White House but I haven’t followed that, where he’s at?"

But Duffy said he has been paying attention to the planned national student walkout that organizers hope will spur lawmakers to action and pass new gun control regulations. The congressman criticized Florida law enforcement for not being more aggressive in its dealings with alleged gunman Nicholas Cruz before he shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.

"So, now to say, 'Yeah, we had laws on the books. We didn’t actually use those laws to protect people but we want now gun control.' Do you think gun control, do you think what these kids ... what everyone is talking about is actually going to keep people safe? I don’t know that that will actually happen," Duffy said.

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