While President Donald Trump is playing statesman during his United Kingdom trip, Republicans at home are now openly feuding with each other over his upcoming plan to institute economically damaging tariffs on Mexico next week.
According to a report at Politico, Trump hardliners are lining up against their GOP colleagues who see the announced tariffs as a big mistake that could cripple the party at the polls in 2020 — and the infighting is becoming more and more acrimonious and public.
The report states that a group of Senate Republicans are pushing back at Trump’s plan to use his national emergency powers to put the tariffs in place and are threatening a veto-proof majority to thwart the president.
According to Trump-supporting lawmakers, opponents of the tariff plan are undercutting the president’s authority and making him look bad.
“I’m disappointed that so many of my colleagues are quick to announce their opposition,” explained Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). “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.”
Two Republicans facing pressure at home from farmers and manufacturers who will be damaged by the newest salvo in the trade war — and who are also facing tough re-election battles — have differing opinions on how GOP congressional lawmakers should handle what is becoming the biggest fight within the party since Trump’s election.
“I’m not in favor of this. The president needs to rethink it,” advocated Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). “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.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) — who is at the top of a Democratic hit list of vulnerable seats in 2020 — is still backing Trump and fired back at his wavering colleagues.
“We’re making a mistake if we oppose the tariffs. Because we’re already seeing positive movement,” explained Tillis, who believes Mexico will somehow bend to Trump’s will. “You could lead Mexico to believe that all they have to do is wait out a resolution of disapproval. So I think it slows down the pace of negotiations.”
According to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who often makes a big show of opposing the president only to back down later, this may be a battle Trump won’t win.
“Why suffer a losing vote that maybe they’d put up here in the Senate?” Paul said in an interview. “I think [new tariffs are] a bad idea and I think there’s a possibility that there could be a veto proof-majority.”
According to Politico, “congressional Republicans are not coordinating to send the president a unified message about what the consequences might be if Trump moves forward. 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,” with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) saying it was unlikely Trump would meet with the same stiff resistance.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) echoed those sentiments, telling reporters, “We should empower the president to be able to have a strong hand in negotiation. If members here were undercutting him, it only hurts.”
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