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Republican senators Tuesday condemned the Trump administration's $12 billion bailout plan for farmers hit by crippling tariffs on their goods.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., came out swinging against the newly proposed aid package, describing it as a pair of "gold crutches" to support the farmers hobbled by President Donald Trump's own trade policy.
“This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and the White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches," Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, said in a statement.
"America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world. This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again,” he added.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled the plan Tuesday, calling it a short-term fix intended to provide "time to work on long-term trade deals." The announcement came hours after Trump took to Twitter to proclaim: "Tariffs are the greatest!"
The president, ahead of trade talks with European Union representatives, argued that the levies would force other countries to come to the table. But he bemoaned the criticism he had received in advance of the discussions, writing in a tweet Wednesday morning that any potential deal will be weakened "when you have people snipping at your heels during a negotiation."
There were plenty of Republicans ripping Trump ahead of the EU talks.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., had called on the Trump administration to "reverse course and end this incoherent" tariff policy.
In a statement, he said the Trump administration was "offering welfare to farmers to solve a problem they themselves created" and suggested that the stimulus itself is evidence that the administration "finally seems to understand that the Trump-Pence tariffs are hurting the American people."
In other remarks on Tuesday, Corker said, "It's hard to believe there isn't an outright revolt right now in Congress," according to a Bloomberg reporter.
Corker, who is among the most vocal critics of Trump from within the president's own party, is not seeking re-election at the end of his term in 2018.
Other Republican senators criticized the bailout plan in remarks to reporters.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., lamented the Trump administration's increasing interference in the economy.
"This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here," Johnson reportedly said, with "commissars" providing benefits.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., accused the Agriculture Department of "trying to put a band-aid on a self-inflicted wound."
Toomey added: "The administration clobbers farmers with an unnecessary trade war then attempts to assuage them with taxpayer handouts. This bailout compounds bad policy with more bad policy.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., ripped Trump's plan as "a bad deal all around," adding that it will be "bad for the taxpayers, horrible for farmers."
Flake, another Republican critic of Trump with plans to retire in 2018, said the decision to flush farmers with taxpayer-funded cash is "patently unfair across the board" for other industries.
"These markets have been developed over years and because of trade agreements that we've had and whatnot," Flake said. "And then just to basically rip them away, it's just wrong."