Trump said the US will impose a tariff, or tax on imports, of 25% for steel and 10% for aluminum. The move is designed to boost domestic production of US metals, but economists, lawmakers, and even many White House officials are worried it could lead to devastating consequences for the US economy.
In response, several Republicans painted Trump's announcement as a grave mistake.
"Let's be clear: The President is proposing a massive tax increase on American families," Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, said in a statement. "Protectionism is weak, not strong. You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one."
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a strong supporter of free-trade policies and a key figure in the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, also urged Trump to reconsider the move.
Sen. Orrin Hatch
Sen. Orrin Hatch
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch listens as U.S. President Donald Trump and his economic team meet with members committee at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
UNITED STATES - APRIL 16: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is interviewed by the press before the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol. Hatch said he intends to support President Barack Obama's choice for federal appeals court in Washington, Sri Srinivasan. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), from left, Barak Obama (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) talk in the U.S. Capitol on the opening day of the legislative session on Thursday, January 4, 2006, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chuck Kennedy/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama embraces Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy before signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act at the SEED School in Washington, DC, on April 21, 2009. Standing alongside are Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. AFP PHOTO / Saul Loeb (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Lamar Alexander (R-LA) await the start gather prior to an arrival ceremony for the casket of the late Rev. Billy Graham to lie in honor inside the Rotunda in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018 REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump celebrates with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Congressional Republicans after the U.S. Congress passed sweeping tax overhaul legislation on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch (R-UT) greets Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) before Alex Azar II testifies on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary in Washington, U.S., January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump and Senator Orrin Hatch step from Air Force One upon arrival in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), R, listens to remarks from ranking member Ron Wyden (D-OR), L, during a markup on the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (C) attends a press conference accompanied by Sen. John Barasso (R-WY) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) following the Republicans weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions greets Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) prior to testifying before a Senate Judiciary oversight hearing on the Justice Department on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
(L-R) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, introduce the Republican tax reform plan at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, arrives before a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. U.S. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchinï¿½said the Internal Revenue Service will issue guidance within the next two weeks to prevent hedge-fund managers from dodging new tax rules on carried-interest profits. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, speaks during a tax bill passage event with U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Republican congressional members of the House and Senate on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. House Republicans passed the most extensive rewrite of the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, hours after the Senate passed the legislation, handing Trump his first major legislative victory. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28: (L-R) Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talk with reporters following the weekly Senate Republican Policy Committee luncheon in the U.S. Capitol November 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Republicans in the Senate hope to pass their tax cut legislation this week and work with the House of Representatives to get a bill to President Donald Trump before Christmas. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, speaks to members of the media after a weekly GOP luncheon meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said GOP members are optimistic that including the repeal of the individual mandate imposed by the Obamacare law in a tax overhaul would be helpful. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 09: U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin (R) listens to Chairman of Senate Finance Committee Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (L) during a meeting with members of the Senate Finance Committee November 9, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans unveiled their version of the tax reform plan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks with reporters as he arrives for lunch with Senate Republicans in the Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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"Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford," Hatch said in a statement. "I encourage the president to carefully consider all of the implications of raising the cost of steel and aluminum on American manufacturers and consumers."
Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking member of the Republican Senate leadership, told Business Insider that the president's tariffs are coming from a good place but could lead to negative outcomes such as a trade war.
"Obviously we don't want to be taken advantage of by our trading partners, but then there is always a danger of retaliation and creating trade wars," Cornyn said. "So it's a very delicate balance."
Cornyn also said that while senators knew the decision was "imminent," the final move was not expected today.
Sen. Pat Roberts, head of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told CNN that the decision will likely lead to retaliation against American farmers.
"Every time you do this, you get a retaliation," Roberts said. "And agriculture is the number one target. I think this is terribly counterproductive for the (agriculture) economy and I'm not very happy."
In addition to lawmakers, conservative action groups also joined the pile on. Adam Brandon, president of conservative action group FreedomWorks, said the decision could reverse economic gains from recently implemented GOP tax law.
"The Trump administration would mar its otherwise strong economic record by imposing these tariffs," Brandon said in a statement. "These could be a lethal blow to all the economic success this administration has ushered in. Higher costs to producers and distributors of goods always get passed on to us, the consumers."