McConnell: 'Not Much Support in My Conference for Tariffs'

Susan Jones | June 5, 2019 | 6:08am EDT
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (File Photo: Screen capture)

( - "There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that's for sure," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told a news conference  on Tuesday, just hours after President Donald Trump said Republicans would be "foolish" to oppose tariffs on Mexico aimed at forcing a crackdown on illegal immigration.

"We had an opportunity at lunch to talk to a number of representatives from the White House about this particular strategy," McConnell said.

"I think I can safely say most of us hope that this Mexican delegation that's come up here to discuss the challenges at the border and what the Mexicans might be able to do to help us more than they have will be fruitful, and that these tariffs will not kick in."

President Trump plans to impose escalating tariffs on Mexico, starting next week, until the massive flow of Central Americans is stopped at Mexico's southern border with Guatemala. Trump, speaking in London on Tuesday, said he expects the first round of 5-percent tariffs to take effect next week.

"What I'm telling you is, we're hoping that doesn't happen," McConnell told the news conference. He said it appears the talks with the Mexican delegation is "going well," and "our hope is that the tariffs will be avoided."

McConnell said although Republicans are not fans of tariffs, "it's way past time the president's requests for assistance from our government be met.”

He noted that Democrats just stripped money for the humanitarian crisis at the southern border out of a supplemental spending bill.

"So look, they need to take their heads out of the sand and work with us on our side of the border to address the humanitarian crisis that their resistance has contributed to. So we have a problem here, not only with the Mexicans not doing as much as they could do to prevent this onrush of people, but our own government and Democratic resistance to addressing the humanitarian crisis down at the border.

"So we have two problems. The Democrats in Washington and the Mexican government. We need to address both," McConnell said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he thinks the Republican-controlled Senate will try to block Trump's imposition of tariffs on imports from Mexico.

"I think there will end up being a vote on this," Paul told CNN on Tuesday. "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.

"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, oh, 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."

Paul said tariffs should originate in Congress, not in the Executive Branch:

In his announcement of tariffs, Trump said:

To address the emergency at the Southern Border, I am invoking the authorities granted to me by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act [(IEEPA)]. Accordingly, starting on June 10, 2019, the United States will impose a 5 percent Tariff on all goods imported from Mexico. If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed. If the crisis persists, however, the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1, 2019. Similarly, if Mexico still has not taken action to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States, Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019. Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory.

But Paul told CNN, "I think you can't just declare emergencies on spending, on tariffs, also on arm sales. They are now saying that they are going to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite the objections of Congress.

"And 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," Paul added.

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