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President Donald Trump’s bailout for the ag industry is driving his many Republican trade critics to exasperation. Pro-free trade Republicans were already furious with Trump's escalation of tariffs against U.S. allies and China — a multi-front trade war they say is hurting U.S. farmers and manufacturers. But the administration’s response Tuesday — announcing plans to send $12 billion to farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs to ease the pain — is the opposite of conservative, free-trade orthodoxy, they said.
“This is becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”
“Taxpayers are going to be asked to initial checks to farmers in lieu of having a trade policy that actually opens and expands more markets. There isn’t anything about this that anybody should like,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP leader. He suggested the new spending might need to be offset by cuts in other funding areas.