Anxious GOP seeks to delay Trump's Mexico tariffs

Senate Republicans say President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE should postpone tariffs set to be imposed on Mexican exports Monday, and allow more time for negotiators to reach a deal.

The senators say further negotiations could help prevent an escalating trade fight they say would damage the U.S. economy.

“We have a lot of people who don’t want to see this go into effect next week,” said Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names MORE (S.D.).


Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE met with a Mexican delegation on Wednesday for about 90 minutes but failed to reach a deal that involved curbing illegal immigration to the United States.

Trump said on Twitter the talks would resume Thursday, and vowed that if there were no deal, the tariffs would be imposed on schedule.

“Progress is being made, but not nearly enough!” wrote Trump, who then noted a report issued by his administration earlier Wednesday that said border arrests in May had hit a record 133,000.

The results appeared to have been released on Friday to put added pressure on Mexico.

Trump said talks would resume “with the understanding that, if no agreement is reached, Tariffs at the 5% level will begin on Monday, with monthly increases as per schedule. The higher the Tariffs go, the higher the number of companies that will move back to the USA!”

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard offered a hopeful note while speaking to reporters after the talks ended.

“Both sides recognized that the current situation cannot be maintained as it is,” he said, referring to May’s record border crossings.

Trump is facing stiff opposition from Senate Republicans over the tariffs, though it is uncertain if the GOP will actually challenge him.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (R-Calif.) offered support for Trump’s tariffs on Wednesday and warned Republicans against undercutting the administration’s ability to negotiate with Mexico.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight MORE (D-Calif.) criticized Trump’s plan, saying he is treating a neighboring country like “an enemy.”

But she also suggested that even if the House and Senate passed a resolution disapproving of the tariffs, it was unlikely the House could override a presidential veto.

“The Republican leader said they’re going to stick with the president on this,” Pelosi said, referring to McCarthy. “I don’t know how many of his members go along with that. I think the Senate probably has the votes to override.”

Whether the Senate would want to go that far is unclear.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.), who is up for reelection himself next year, has generally sought to avoid confrontations with Trump, and Republicans who stand against the president are likely to attract primary challengers.

Trump on Tuesday said it would be “foolish” for GOP lawmakers to try to stop the tariffs, and some Republican senators on Wednesday downplayed the possibility of overriding a presidential veto.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-Wis.), who warned administration officials Tuesday that the Senate would vote on a disapproval resolution, changed his tone on Wednesday.

He said he informed Mexican Ambassador Martha Bárcena Coqui earlier in the day that Republicans would not vote to block Trump’s tariffs.  

“I talked to the Mexican ambassador. I wanted to make sure that she realized that if the president decides to invoke tariffs, I don’t think there’s a possibility for a veto override,” Johnson told reporters after the call.

Thune said McConnell is “talking to the White House,” and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, said he thinks the tariffs should be postponed. Cornyn said he’s hearing a lot of pushback from constituents in Texas who are worried about the economic impact.

“It would hurt the economy not just in Texas, but Mexico is one of our major export countries and it would hurt, I think, the entire U.S. economy,” he said.

Texas exported $109.7 billion in goods to Mexico in 2018, about 35 percent of the state’s total exports, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

At a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, Republicans hammered administration officials, arguing the tariffs would boomerang on the United States. The tariffs, if they go into place on Monday, are set to rise by 5 percentage points each month before topping out at 25 percent in October. 

“There was a lot of interest yesterday in [there being] no precipitous actions on the tariffs,” said Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge McConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Graham becomes center of Georgia storm MORE (R-Mo.), summarizing the discussion.  

Senate Republicans want a chance to meet with Trump after he returns from Europe on Friday to make their case on the need to delay tariffs.

“I think there’s going to be a group of senators who are going to see the president to express some concerns about what the impact would be on the USMCA, for example, and we’ll see what happens from there,” said Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Two more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (R-Maine), referring to the new trade deal that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement if it is ratified.

Trump has made passing legislation to implement the USMCA a top priority for 2019. The president and his senior economic adviser, Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE, pressed Democratic leaders about ratifying the new deal when they met in late April to discuss a possible infrastructure package.

There was one notable sign that the pressure on the administration was having some effect.

Senior White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN on Wednesday that tariffs against Mexico “may not have to go into effect” if it can show progress in slowing the flow of migrants from Central America into the United States.

“We believe that these tariffs may not have to go into effect precisely because we have the Mexicans’ attention,” he said.

Rafael Bernal and Jordan Fabian contributed.