Republicans in the House and Senate appear divided in their reaction to President Donald Trump’s threats to slap Mexico with incremental tariffs.
“There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that’s for sure,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel said Tuesday after a closed-door lunch between administration staffers and GOP senators, where White House deputy counsel Pat Philbin and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel took heavy criticism from Republican lawmakers. “We are hoping that doesn’t happen.”
Other Republican senators publicly voiced their concerns about taxing Mexican imports — a move the president is threatening to execute unless their government does more to stem the illegal immigration crisis.
“When it comes to applying a tariff to Mexico, I for one would not support that. I do not favor tariffs being applied to friends like Mexico,” Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said, according to Politico. “If there’s a vote I think it’s a very difficult vote for those of us who oppose tariffs. I would not be inclined to vote [for] a tariff against a friend.”
Discussing the closed-door talks in a much harsher tone, Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford reportedly said the White House “is trying to use tariffs to solve every problem but HIV and climate change.”
While opposition runs high among Republicans in the upper chamber of Congress, the GOP House caucus appears more supportive.
“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,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, attributing the quote to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
It’s not clear when the GOP House leader made the statement, and his office did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for clarification.
While there are a number of moderate Republicans in the House who would likely vote against the tariff proposal, it would be difficult to find over 50 GOP members to vote against the president — the amount needed in the lower chamber to override a presidential veto. In fact, the issue of Mexican tariffs was not even debated when House Republicans held their own closed-door meeting Tuesday morning.
Trump, who has made immigration a top issue in his administration, announced that he would impose a 5% tariff on all goods coming from Mexico unless its government does more to stop the flow of U.S.-bound illegal migrants pouring through its borders. The tariffs will are due to begin on June 10, and will increase every month by increments of 5 percentage points, reaching a possible maximum of 25% by October.
Top Mexican officials held a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday and publicly warned against the idea of a trade war. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to meet with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Wednesday as they attempt to reach a deal before the June 10 deadline.
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