President George W. Bush slapped tariffs on steel imports in 2002. But his were so-called safeguard tariffs, which require a lengthier legislative process involving the input of the International Trade Commission. He ended those tariffs in 2003.
In those days, Republicans were generally unified in their preference for free trade. And as recently as 2013, Republicans appeared to join Democrats in strongly supporting U.S. participation in a more global economy: A Pew Research poll from that year found that 74 percent of Republicans agreed that growing trade and business ties are good for the U.S.
But Trump's winning presidential campaign, during which he regularly attacked free trade agreements as "unfair," quickly buckled that consensus. By March 2016, more than two-thirds of Trump supporters said free trade agreements have been a bad thing for the U.S., according to a Pew Research poll at the time.
Republican congressional leadership, however, has been less enthusiastic to follow Trump on trade.
House Speaker Paul Ryan this week said he was "extremely worried" about the consequences of a potential trade war. And Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said he has "genuine concerns" about the policy.
On Wednesday, 107 House Republicans, including House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert, sent a letter to Trump opposing broadly applied tariffs, and instead called for more targeted trade measures.
"We support your resolve to address distortions caused by China's unfair practices, and we are committed to acting with you and our trading partners on meaningful and effective action," the letter said. "But we urge you to reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers."
Wall Street doesn't appear to be pining for protectionism, either. The day after Gary Cohn, Trump's top economic advisor and a free trade advocate, announced his resignation, the stock market tumbled before bouncing off its lows.