Senate Republicans are discussing ways to block President Donald Trump from imposing tariffs on Mexican goods out of concerns over their impact on the U.S. economy — and the president said Tuesday the GOP would be “foolish” to do so.
“I don’t think they will do that,” Trump said during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London. “I think if they do, it’s foolish.”
The president said “there’s nothing more important than borders” and claimed to have a 94 percent approval rating among Republican voters
“Can you believe that?” Trump asked. “Isn’t that something? I love records.”
The president says he will apply tariffs of 5 percent on all Mexican goods next week and increase the rate to 25 percent in coming months if Mexico does not substantially halt illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexican border, which is at a decade high this year.
Asked if Mexico, which has recently stepped up border apprehensions and deportations of Central American migrants, was doing enough to stave off tariffs, Trump said Tuesday that “it’s more likely that the tariffs go on” than not.
“Mexico shouldn’t allow millions of people to try and enter our country,” Trump said. “And they could stop it very quickly. And I think they will. And if they won’t, we’re gonna put tariffs on. And every month those tariffs go from 5 percent to 10 percent to 15 percent to 20 and then to 25 percent.”
In the face of the planned tariffs, GOP senators are first checking to see whether Trump has the authority to take the action, two Republican Senate sources familiar with the discussions told NBC News, and then lawmakers will determine what the Senate can do to block the levies, which depend on the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the border in February.
The conversations, which the sources said began last night when the Senate was in session for the first time since Trump announced the tariffs on Twitter last week, was first reported by The Washington Post.
Mexican and U.S. officials are meeting this week in Washington, D.C., to discuss the tariffs and immigration.
A move to block Trump’s tariffs on Mexico, which are set to go into effect June 10, would be one of the most significant rebukes of the president by his own party to date. In March, Congress passed a resolution of disapproval to override Trump’s use of his national emergency declaration to reapportion billions of dollars for his border wall, which Trump vetoed.
Twelve Republicans joined that vote. If enough Republicans supported another resolution of disapproval to end the national emergency because of their frustration with Trump’s planned tariffs, it would undermine both the tariffs and the president’s border wall funding. At least 20 Republicans would be needed to override a presidential veto, assuming all Democrats and the two independents who caucus supported the move.
Republican lawmakers and the business community are concerned that the White House hasn’t fully thought through the possible economic consequences of the proposed tariffs, the sources said. Some lawmakers are also concerned about the White House’s lack of messaging, planning and forethought on the tariffs, they said.
After Trump announced the tariffs, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement that the president “is right to point out the crisis at our southern border. However, a blanket tax increase on everything Americans purchase from Mexico is the wrong remedy.”
“Tariffs are a dangerous and risky economic tool,” Toomey said. “They raise the cost of products for American families, reduce market share abroad for U.S. exporters, and make our economy less competitive globally. History has shown us time and again that nobody wins a trade war: Trade is mutually beneficial, and trade restrictions, like tariffs, are mutually harmful.”
Global equities tumbled after Trump’s unexpected threat last week against the United States’ biggest trade partner, as investors feared his aggressive trade diplomacy could tip the United States and other major economies into recession.
To head off the punitive tariffs, a senior Mexican delegation began high-level talks Monday in Washington, where it was expected to be pushed to do more to hold back Central American migrants.
Trump on Sunday called Mexico an “abuser” of the United States and said he wanted action, not talk. Mexico has signaled it would retaliate to the tariffs, with targets likely to include farm products on Trump supporting states.