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169 House members urge the Trump administration to allow exclusions from the latest China tariffs

Jacob Pramuk
As the U.S. and China negotiate on trade, Beijing is working overtime, pulling multiple levers to steady its lagging economy and boost markets.

Dozens of bipartisan House members are pushing the Trump administration to allow companies to ask for exclusions from its latest round of tariffs on Chinese imports.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer dated Monday, 169 representatives pushed the White House to let firms request exclusions from the duties. Last month, the Trump administration slapped 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, which will rise to 25 percent at the end of the year.

An exclusion process "would afford U.S. companies the opportunity to seek relief if tariffs harm their global competitiveness and would help target the effects of the tariffs on China rather than on U.S. companies and their customers," wrote the lawmakers led by Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., and Ron Kind, D-Wis. The House members noted that, under previous rounds of tariffs levied by the Trump administration, it allowed companies to request exclusions.

The letter marks only the latest congressional backlash to Trump's mounting trade war with the world's second largest economy. Lawmakers have raised fears about the duties passing new costs on to consumers and retaliatory Chinese tariffs damaging the U.S. agricultural industry.

Still, many bipartisan lawmakers have argued — and did once again in their letter Monday — that China has engaged in unfair trade practices related to alleged theft of intellectual property.

The House members signing the letter include numerous Republicans in tight midterm races whose districts are affected by the tariffs. The GOP aims to defend its majority in November by preventing Democrats from flipping 23 GOP-held seats.

House lawmakers running in pivotal Senate races such as Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., also signed on to the letter. Farmers in Cramer's state in particular have faced damage from China's retaliatory duties.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has repeatedly tied Cramer to Trump's trade moves as she struggles to defend her seat.

— CNBC's Stephanie Dhue contributed to this report