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Republican lawmakers eager to halt a new round of tariffs on Mexican goods next week have spent days urging the Trump administration to negotiate a solution with Mexico’s government.
But President Donald Trump is making clear he has no intention of cutting a quick face-saving deal, warning on Twitter late June 4 that he’s not “bluffing” in his threat to impose 5% tariffs on all imports from Mexico starting June 10.
That has raised the stakes for a meeting June 5 between Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and White House officials that may be Mexico’s best chance to offer concrete steps to curb the flow of migrants into the United States.
Most Senate Republicans have objected to Trump’s use of tariffs to force tougher border enforcement by Mexico, questioning the president’s choice of legal authority and weighing moves by Congress to block the levies.
“House Republicans support the President on Tariffs with Mexico all the way, & that makes any measure the President takes on the Border totally Veto proof. Why wouldn’t you as Republicans support him when that will allow our President to make a better deal.” Thank you @GOPLeader— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2019
Yet with Congress leaving town June 5 and little it can do to prevent the first 5% tariffs, members are waging a private and public pressure campaign to make Trump understand how damaging this would be to the livelihood of many Republican voters, the economy as a whole and even to the president’s re-election campaign.
The Mexican foreign ministry said Ebrard is scheduled to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on June 5. The White House did not respond to requests to confirm meeting participants.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said he spoke with Trump on June 2 about the Mexico tariffs and described him as “dug-in.”
“He’s as serious as four heart attacks and a stroke,” Kennedy told reporters at the Capitol. “A 5% tariff isn’t going to break the bank. A 25% tariff is a different story, but we are a long way from there.”
White House Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin was deployed to a Senate Republican lunch June 4, at which he faced strong opposition to Trump’s tariff plan, according to those present.
“There is not much support in my conference,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after the lunch. “We’re hoping that doesn’t happen.”
McConnell (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy also expressed hope that the White House can resolve the immigration dispute with Mexico to avoid the worst of the tariffs.
“I believe that at the end of the day we will get to a solution that solves our problem,” McCarthy said.
There are ways Congress could undercut Trump’s legal authority for the tariffs, but not before June 10 when the first 5% round is set to take effect.
If the White House says the justification for the tariffs rests on Trump’s declaration of a national emergency from earlier this year, Congress could revive a resolution of disapproval that already passed both chambers but failed to get enough votes in the House to override Trump’s veto.
If the White House declares a new national emergency, Congress could pass a new resolution of disapproval — effectively removing the provision Trump would cite to have the power to impose tariffs.
The question is whether Congress would have enough Republicans on board this time to overrule Trump’s veto. That would take about 20 Republican senators and 55 Republican representatives would have to stand up to the president — and their constituents who support him.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) predicted that at least 20 Senate Republicans would oppose Trump on Mexico tariffs.
“You’ve heard of people who are war weary,” Cramer said. “Senate Republicans are tariff weary.”