Ad blaming Jeff Denham for tariffs is misleading
An ad by Democratic candidate Josh Harder against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, tries to directly link him to tariff policies enacted by President Donald Trump that have harmed farmers in the district.
The advertisement features a 74-year-old walnut farmer in the 10th congressional district, John Casazza, who blames Trump for a bad walnut market this year and says Denham has mostly supported Trump.
My family had been growing walnuts here for four generations. We’re looking at one of the saddest markets in years. This trade war from Trump will cost farmers like me millions. It’s killing jobs and Jeff Denham still votes with Trump 97 percent of the time. I’m a Republican but I can’t vote with Jeff Denham this time.
It’s time we had a representative who voted for the Valley, not their political party.
While Trump is responsible for starting a trade war with China that has hurt California farmers particularly, it’s a stretch to imply Denham deserves personal blame for the tariffs.
China has imposed an additional 15 percent tariff on walnuts and other farm products from the U.S. in reaction to tariffs imposed against Chinese products by Trump. Farmers have generally spoken out against the tariffs as they decrease demand and drive up costs of their products in other countries.
Add to that a record-high supply of walnuts from California this year at 690,000 tons, according to the USDA, and prices for U.S. walnuts have dropped. Trump has proposed the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide $34.6 million in tariff relief to walnut growers in response, which amounts to 2.3 percent of walnut growers’ typical production value.
Trump unilaterally imposed the tariffs without congressional approval, which the White House invoked the power to do under the Trade Expansion Act passed in 1962. That gives the president the power to impose restrictions on foreign trade if the Department of Commerce determines the imports pose a threat to national security.
Denham has spoken against the tariffs and circulated a letter in July that was sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that said tariffs are “threatening the economic livelihood of our businesses and communities.” He said in an interview with Fox40 he expected feedback from lawmakers would prompt Trump to roll back the tariffs, which has not occurred.
He also said in comments to the San Jose Mercury News in August that though nobody wanted the tariffs something needed to be done about “imbalances and unfairness” in China’s actions.
Denham has taken part in no action that would force Trump to roll the tariffs back. Congress could act to take those powers away, but Republican leadership has not moved to do so. The House has not taken any votes on Trump’s tariffs, not even a symbolic vote rebuking them like the Senate did in July.
It’s unclear if Democrats would move to limit presidential trade powers either if they take a House or Senate majority next year, particularly if they don’t have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto.
While Denham does vote consistently with Trump’s position on the House floor, it is misleading to imply that it means he supports Trump’s tariffs.
Denham voting with Trump 97 percent of the time is a figure gleaned from FiveThirtyEight, a nonpartisan blog specializing in data analysis. Its breakdown on Denham’s votes shows of all major legislation that has gone to the House floor for a vote, Denham has sided with Trump’s position in all cases in 2017 and 2018 except for a budget vote and a vote to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.
FiveThirtyEight said they based Trump’s support or opposition on bills based on a “clear statement of support or opposition made by him or by someone on his behalf.”
While the figure is correct, it’s important context to note that House leadership officials generally don’t put bills to a floor vote if they know they won’t pass or if the president doesn’t support those bills.