Anxious GOP seeks to delay Trump's Mexico tariffs

Senate Republicans say President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos 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 ThuneDurbin: Bringing senators back in two weeks would be 'dangerous and risky' Trump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill MORE (S.D.).

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Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP Rep calls for US to bring international case against China over coronavirus Belarus's risky coronavirus strategy House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump 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 McCarthyHillicon Valley: Google bans Zoom from its work computers | Dem cautions White House against using surveillance to fight virus | Lawmakers push House leaders on remote voting Rep. Massie threatens to block next relief bill, calls for remote voting Lawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting 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 PelosiTrip that led to acting Navy secretary's resignation cost 3K: reports Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans 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.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell to try to pass small business funds Thursday, warns against holding it 'hostage' Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans 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 JohnsonRemembering Tom Coburn's quiet persistence Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner GOP seeks up to 0 billion to maximize financial help to airlines, other impacted industries 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 CornynLawmakers announce legislation to fund government purchases of oil GOP senator: National shelter-in-place order would be an 'overreaction' Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package 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 BluntGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus Five things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike 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 CollinsSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Senators push for changes to small business aid President tightens grip on federal watchdogs 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 KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan 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.