Over the past several days, there’s been rampant speculation that the GOP may move to pass a veto-proof version of the bipartisan resolution aimed at nullifying Donald Trump’s border emergency.
That resolution died with a stroke of the presidential veto pen. It was the first veto of Trump’s presidency (he would subsequently use his second veto to ensure the US can continue to assist the Saudis in perpetuating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen).
Asked on Tuesday about the prospect of Republicans moving to block his tariff decision, Trump said “Oh I don’t think they will do that, I think if they did it’s foolish.”
On Thursday, Trump again dismissed senators who oppose his tariffs as imbeciles. “We’ve told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it, too. And I’m very happy with it”, he said, on the way to commemorate D-Day in France. “And lot of people, senators included, they have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to tariffs. They have no — absolutely no idea”, he added.
That, coming from a man who has proven time and again that he quite literally does not know what tariffs are or how they operate.
“I’m not in favor of this. The president needs to rethink it,” Senator Joni Ernst said this week. “The president needs to understand that we’re opposed to these tariffs. We don’t think it’s a smart way forward. The president has his own opinion, he’s a tariff guy but I think we have a lot of folks in opposition.”
Tarrif man, Joni. He’s a tariff “man”, not a tariff “guy”.
On Thursday, Ernst wouldn’t say whether she’d vote to block Trump. “I hope we don’t actually get to that point”, she told reporters. “The administration and President Trump … know where I stand and where a number of colleagues stand on this issue.” She went on to bemoan the constant headline hockey. “One moment we hear that things are going well, and perhaps we don’t need the tariffs, and then a moment later, we’re hearing, maybe we’re going to go ahead with the tariffs”, she chided. “I hope we don’t get to that point, but I do think Congress needs to exercise its right to put some checks and balances out there.”
“When it comes to applying a tariff to Mexico, I for one would not support that. I do not favor tariffs being applied to friends like Mexico”, Mitt Romney remarked, weighing in. “If there’s a vote I think it’s a very difficult vote for those of us who oppose tariffs [and] I would not be inclined to vote [for] a tariff against a friend.”
Amusingly, some Republicans are actually taking the absurd position that moving ahead with a veto-proof resolution to block the tariffs sends the wrong message to Mexico.
“I’m disappointed that so many of my colleagues are quick to announce their opposition”, Kevin Cramer said Wednesday, on the way to musing that “by so publicly rebuking the president’s strategy you undermine the very leverage that could end this thing quickly. That’s the irony to me.”
Got that? Kevin thinks the GOP shouldn’t speak out against something that is antithetical to Republican orthodoxy because by doing so, they might inadvertently make Mexico dig in its heels, prolonging the dispute. If Kevin is looking for “irony”, there’s plenty to be had in this situation, starting with the fact that by refusing to tell Trump no, the GOP is virtually ensuring that the tariff escalations will continue.
Thom Tillis – who you might recall opposed the original border emergency before ultimately flip-flopping – agrees with Cramer. “We’re making a mistake if we oppose the tariffs because we’re already seeing positive movement”, Tillis said. “You could lead Mexico to believe that all they have to do is wait out a resolution of disapproval.”
Again, this is ridiculous. If the ultimate goal is to avert tariffs (which it clearly is, because what both Cramer and Tillis are arguing is that if Mexico is scared enough, they will do whatever they have to do to placate Trump and avoid the duties), then the best course of action for Republicans is just to pass a veto-proof resolution so that the White House simply cannot impose them. Instead, Republicans are so spineless that they’d rather just sit around and hope that Mexico is terrified enough to relent.
Earlier this week, Tillis told Fox that he supports Trump in turning the tariff gun on Mexico for something that has nothing to do with trade. “I’m a free trader, but I do think we have to make it very clear [that] when you don’t cooperate with us on things that are important like securing the border then the president has to have those tools available to come to a good solution for the American people and our trading partners”, he said. It’s hard to see how this qualifies as a “good solution” for the American people or for the country’s trading partners. That’s kind of the whole point: This is a terrible solution for everyone involved.
Complicating this further is the inability of Senate Republicans and their counterparts in the House to get on the same page. “Congressional Republicans are not coordinating to send the president a unified message about what the consequences might be if Trump moves forward”, Politico wrote Wednesday. “Even if the Senate is able to muster 67 votes to override a presidential veto, it would be all for naught if the House Republicans are working in the exact opposite direction.”
Well, in the absence of a strong, unified message from his party, Trump is on the verge of sending a strong message of his own. According to The Hill, he has drafted a new emergency declaration especially for the tariffs which “mentions nine separate times Mexico [has] failed to control northward migration from Central America.”
“The United States Government has repeatedly asked the Government of Mexico to take responsibility and help reduce this mass migration. Yet the Government of Mexico has failed to take sufficient action to alleviate this problem, has allowed this mass incursion to increase, and has failed to secure its own southern border”, a draft document reads. Here’s a bit more:
More than three-fourths of the aliens illegally crossing our southern border are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. They often travel through Guatemala, cross Mexico’s southern border, and travel without restriction across Mexico before entering the United States. The Government of Mexico is well aware of this problem.
On Thursday evening, Mike Pence said a second day of negotiations with the delegation from Mexico produced not concrete agreement. Both the vice president and Sarah Sanders indicated that the tariffs were likely to go ahead on Monday as scheduled.
If Trump declares a second emergency, he’s likely to further alienate GOP critics on the Hill. Although it still seems unlikely that Republicans can muster enough support for a veto-proof resolution blocking the tariffs, Trump continues to run roughshod over checks and balances and appears to care nothing for party orthodoxy when it comes to trade policy.
“Republicans are primarily free-traders. Trump is obviously tariffing a lot of things, it’s hurting some of our producers, some of our manufacturers”, Illinois Republican John Shimkus is quoted as saying, in the Politico piece linked above.
“[Trump] is well-loved in many districts”, Shimkus went on to say, spelling out the quandary for the GOP. “It will be a tough vote for some folks… [Republicans] struggle with this tariff issue.”
Don’t we all, John. Don’t we all.