Politics & Government

Democratic PAC launches attack on Barr over bourbon tariffs in Trump trade war

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr speaks during his town hall in the Beeler Auditorium at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky., Monday evening, April 24, 2017.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr speaks during his town hall in the Beeler Auditorium at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky., Monday evening, April 24, 2017.

A Democratic political action committee has launched an ad criticizing Rep. Andy Barr’s stance on President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs and their impact on the bourbon industry.

The ad shows clips of news stations talking about the potential negative impact a trade war would have on the Kentucky bourbon industry. Bourbon is among the products that has been targeted for retaliatory tariffs from the European Union and China in response to Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

It features an interview with Barr where he says “we in Congress applaud the president for taking a hard line,” before showing clips of the potential harm of the bourbon tariff.

The 45 second digital ad, from Democratic Super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, marks one of the first ad purchases by an outside group in a race that is expected to attract significant national attention. Barr is fighting to keep his seat in a competitive race with Democratic candidate Amy McGrath, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot.

“The reckless trade war that Andy Barr welcomed is now pounding Kentucky, and despite mounting costs, he won’t lift a finger for the people whose livelihoods are under attack,” said Andrew Bates, the spokesman for American Bridge. “This cowardly inaction is not something that Kentuckians afford, and it’s time for Barr to admit he was wrong and stop turning his back on his constituents.”

Barr has walked a fine line on the bourbon tariffs, both complimenting the Trump administration for their attempt to renegotiate trade deals while lamenting the tariffs on the bourbon industry.

When he was asked about the tariffs in June, Barr said he had voiced his concerns with the Trump administration through a letter and through facilitating meetings with the administration.

“It’s kind of one of these things we appreciate because the administration is trying to get reciprocal trade,” Barr said. “At the same time, I’ve got to fight for my bourbon industry and I’m doing it.”

Barr co-sponsored a bill that would require congressional approval for trade measures carried out by the executive branch, but Republican leadership has been reluctant to take up legislation to counter the Trump administration. Barr also expressed his concerns about a trade war in a hearing this month with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, particularly its impact on the auto industry and Kentucky’s bourbon industry.

“I appreciate the Administration’s intentions in endeavoring to modernize America’s international commercial relationships to promote free, fair and reciprocal trade,” Barr said in a statement. “But I remain deeply concerned about the serious and unintended consequences of tariffs on Kentucky’s key industries, including auto manufacturing, bourbon and agriculture.”

The statement echoed the concerns of McGrath. When she was asked about the tariffs, McGrath talked about the harm it would cause to the bourbon and auto industries as well as to family farmers.

“The tariffs make no sense, that’s the bottom line,” McGrath told the Herald-Leader in June. “The tariffs are evidence of the wider agenda that hurts the average American.”

McGrath also repeated her refrain of calling on Congress to take action and stand up to Trump.

American Bridge isn’t the only PAC dabbling in the Sixth Congressional District. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC geared toward keeping Republican control of Congress, established a field office during the primary.