International Tariffs A Hot Button Issue In Contentious Tennessee U.S. Senate Race

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The Volunteer State could swing the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Polls show a tight and growingly heated race between Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor.

“We are not taking our eye off this issue at all,” Blackburn said. “We’re very concerned.”

She is talking about new tariffs recently ordered by President Donald Trump on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.

Last week, Local 24 told you about HVAC suppliers already being hit by retaliatory price increases between 6% & 30%.

Monday, Blackburn said she’s also heard from affected Tennessee manufacturers large and small.    

Leaders of those companies are also upset about price hikes. 

“I grow more concerned about tariffs every day and I continue to meet with the companies that are affected by this,” Blackburn said. 

But she said she isn’t ready to call out the 45th President on tariffs, instead wanting to see which companies could be exempted after meeting with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week.

“We will see what the exemptions are going to hold, but do we grow more concerned every day?” Blackburn said. “Absolutely.”

Local 24 reporter Brad Broders asked Blackburn: “Was President Trump wrong to do this, you think, based on what you are seeing across the state, the impact already?”

Blackburn replied: “I understand where he is trying to get, I appreciate that he does not want the consumer or the worker to be adversely impacted.” 

“I don’t think this is something you should waffle on,” Phil Bredesen said.

Bredesen, the former Democratic governor of Tennessee and Blackburn’s likely general election opponent, accused her Monday of not being vocal enough against the tariffs and the President, who campaigned for her in Nashville last month. 

“Talk about exemptions, wait and see, that’s just waffling,” Bredesen said. “Is this right or wrong thing to do? I think it’s the wrong to do.”

Bredesen added that Blackburn should challenge the tariffs more publicly, like her Tennessee GOP colleagues in the Senate, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Both are co-sponsors of a proposed bipartisan bill to require congressional approval on the types of tariffs President Trump just ordered.

“I think it’s a cynical approach to pander to people in Ohio and Pennsylvania that are Presidential swing states, and we are collateral damage in this and we need to stand up.”

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