GOP leaders had lobbied the White House from moving forward, writing letters, speaking out in the media and through outreach to the president and his advisers.
The top Republican in the U.S. Congress, Paul Ryan, publicly denounced President Donald Trump's imposition Thursday of steep tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.
"I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences", Ryan said in a statement.
Noting that the United States should focus on China's metals sales that are "trans-shipped" through other countries at unfair prices, Ryan said: "I really think the best policy is to be surgical and specific".
The US leader has triggered howls of protest in his own camp by slapping tariffs of 25 percent on imports of steel and 10 percent on aluminum on Thursday, with only Canada and Mexico exempt for the time being.
Members of the US Congress's Republican majority are dismayed over Donald Trump's contention new trade tariffs.
His colleague Mike Lee, of the ultra-conservative Tea Party, immediately claimed congressional powers as defined in the Constitution's first article - which says the power to tax belongs to the legislature - promising "to make sure these tax hikes are never enforced".
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Tillerson had planned Saturday to attend an event for PEPFAR, the USA program to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Chinese investment in the continent significantly outweighs USA investment.
Johnson said he expected Trump's action, which takes effect in 15 days, to be challenged in court. "Our factories were left to rot and to rust all over the place", Trump said.
Flake's move came amid a loud chorus of criticism from Republicans, traditionally a free-trade party, for Trump's action.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the tariffs.
There was some praise from Democrats for the Republican president. Trade wars are not won, they are only lost.
"This isn't just bad for farmers and ranchers in Nebraska who need to buy a new tractor, it's also bad for the moms and dads who will lose their manufacturing jobs because fewer people can buy a more expensive product", he said.
In the Senate, Republicans are opposing the duties en masse, with Senator Jeff Flake already preparing a bill to "nullify these tariffs".
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, praised Trump for exempting Mexico and Canada from tariffs - for now - and said the White House should "go further to narrow these tariffs so they hit the intended target -- and not USA workers, businesses, and families".