Rand Paul: I don't support Trump having Congress's constitutional power

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Trump lunches with two of his biggest Senate GOP critics Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown MORE (R-Ky.) said President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE would solidify opposition to tariffs on Mexico if he justified the levies by arguing there was a national emergency at the border.

Paul, an outspoken libertarian, said on CNN Tuesday that an emergency declaration would infringe on Congress’s power of the purse and mandate over creating laws.

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“Really tariffs, laws, have to originate with Congress, and I think you just can’t declare emergencies on spending, on tariffs, also on arms sales,” he said, referring to a potential arms sale to Saudi Arabia that has faced staunch opposition in Congress.

“So I think what you may be finding if we try to run government by emergency is it may solidify opposition. Even people like myself who are largely supportive of President Trump, largely supportive of his initiatives, I can’t be for letting the president have all the power that the Constitution gave to Congress.” 

Trump appears determined to slap the tariffs on Mexico despite Republican opposition, saying the move is necessary to force America’s southern neighbor to take more stringent action to prevent illegal border crossings.

A 5 percent tariff on all Mexican imports is scheduled to take effect Monday and could steadily rise to 25 percent if Trump is dissatisfied with Mexico’s efforts. The move alarmed Mexico City and prompted it to send a team of diplomats to Washington this week to convince the White House against implementing the penalties.

“We are going to see if we can do something, but think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on,” Trump said at a press conference Tuesday, adding that it would be “foolish” for Republicans to try to stop him.

Trump said he would impose the levies under the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, legislation that allows for Congress to terminate the national emergency declaration with a joint resolution passed by both chambers.

Congressional Republicans are mulling a possible resolution to block the new tariffs, but have expressed skepticism it would even come up on the Senate floor.