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Conservatives and Republicans have erupted into a virtual intraparty civil war over Donald Trump’s plan to slap new tariffs on goods coming from Mexico in an attempt to somehow push the Mexican government to stem the immigration coming over its border with the United States.
Trump’s plan calls for imposing tariffs of 5 percent–and perhaps rising to 25 percent–on goods coming from Mexico until such time as Mexico takes steps to the Trump administration’s satisfaction to cut immigration across the border.
Not all Republicans are pleased with Trump’s approach, which carries with it economic risk.
“Well, there is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that’s for sure, but we appreciate the — we had an opportunity at lunch to talk to a number of representatives from the White House about this particular strategy,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). “I think I can safely say most of us hope that this Mexican delegation that’s come up here and discuss the challenges at the border and what the Mexicans might be able to do to help us more than they have …”
McConnell’s Blue Grass State colleague, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, went further by predicting a congressional vote to overturn Trump’s Mexico tariffs.
“Well, my understanding is that in order to use this emergency power that there will be a privileged vote. A privileged vote means it can’t be blocked and anyone can demand it. I think there will end up being a vote on this, and I really do think that there may be enough numbers of people who think that we shouldn’t be allowing one person to make this decision, that we actually may have enough to override a veto on this,” Paul said. “And so I think it sends a bad signal when we’re trying to get a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada which the Trump administration has actually been successful with, that then to go back and say, ‘But oh, but by the way, we’ll heap on other tariffs outside.’ I think this goes a long way towards destroying the trade deal that they were so proud of.”
But make no mistake: Trump also has conservative supporters for his tariffs–and they could be fierce in unloading against Republicans who have broken with the president over these tariffs.
Lou Dobbs, a Fox Business host and ardent Trump supporter, angrily and in no-uncertain terms, backed the president on his program.
“I’ve talked with a number of people today, all of them off the record, but I can tell you tonight I fear for the republic. The Republican Party is being led on, well, in the U.S. Senate, on Capitol Hill by cowards. They don’t represent the Americans who sent them there,” Dobbs said. “… Instead, they are clearly led by multi-nationalists, big business and Wall Street and the lobbies that represent those multi-nationals and business interests. In fact, the senators are afraid the president will do exactly what he was voted in to do and what he set out to do; that is, to shut down illegal immigration and secure our southern border. To force Mexico to stop the illegal immigration that the chamber of horrors desires for its members.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who once was among Trump’s fiercest critics, today has become one of his most reliable defenders.
And, while he didn’t match the fire of Dobbs, Graham once more played that role on this issue: choosing to mostly blame Democrats for immigration issues.
“Tariffs would be tough on the economy. Borders are broken that need to be fixed. If tariffs is what it takes for Mexico to do better, I’m all for tariffs. Trump is not the problem, Mexico is the problem. Republicans are not the problem,” he said. “Democrats won’t vote to change the laws. Now, why do we have a million people coming here from Central America? They know if they read a card claiming asylum, you’re entitled to a hearing. It takes three or four years to get a hearing. We don’t have enough space so we let you go. You just have to claim asylum.
“I have a bill says you have to claim asylum in [their] home country or Mexico. You can’t do it here. We ship you back if you claim it. You can bring a small child with you, we can’t send that child back. We’ll change that law, 90 percent of this will stop,” Graham added. “Mexico provides buses to these people. Mexico is doing better. But I’m not blaming President Trump here. I’m blaming the Congress because we can’t do our job. And I’m blaming Mexico.”