(CNN) — Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker ramped up his criticism of his Republican colleagues Wednesday, railing on GOP leadership for not wanting to take on President Donald Trump on core Republican issues like trade.
“We’re in a strange place. It’s becoming a cultish thing isn’t it?” the Tennessee Republican told reporters. “It’s not a good place for any party to have a cult-like situation as it relates to a President that happens to be purportedly of the same party.”
Corker’s criticism of Republican leaders comes amid his push to get a vote on his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would check the President’s ability to impose tariffs.
On Tuesday, Corker gave an animated speech on the Senate floor when he was stymied, saying he GOP colleagues were concerned because “we might poke the bear!”
Corker said Wednesday his comments don’t apply to all Republican members, but he said “leadership in general” is not willing to poke the bear “because it’s all about the next election.”
“To have an administration that wakes up every day on an ad hoc basis just making stuff up as they go along with no coherency to it — I think us having to weigh in on that would actually cause them to have to think about what they’re doing versus, ‘Well, I’m upset with X today so I’ll do this,'” Corker said.
Corker’s amendment is in response to the steel and aluminum tariffs Trump announced on US allies earlier this month. The measure would roll back the President’s trade authority and give Congress the power to check Trump’s ability to impose tariffs on national security grounds.
Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns about the Trump administration’s tariffs, but they’ve also been unwilling to embrace Corker’s amendment over both procedural issues and broader concerns about undercutting Trump’s negotiating position.
In addition to the fight over trade, Corker also brushed aside the President’s tweets Wednesday morning declaring that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat.”
“Well, that would be hyperbole,” Corker said. “The President has a tendency, time to time” to make ad hoc comments, he added.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also pushed back on Trump’s tweets, emphasizing that it’s only the start of negotiations with Pyongyang.
“No, I think they made some representations about their intentions but this is the beginning of a long process,” Cornyn said. “We are not at the end of the road, we are at the beginning.”
But Cornyn doesn’t agree with Corker on his amendment. He told reporters last week he supported Corker’s amendment, but didn’t think “this is a time to pick a fight with the President, in the run-up to a midterm election.”
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