It smells like a bluff when a sizable number of Republican senators say they’re prepared to block President Trump’s plans to put tariffs on imports from Mexico.
The GOP senators met Tuesday, and reports said that during their closed-door lunch at least six members spoke up against Mexican tariffs, while no one spoke in favor of it.
A few hours before the senators met, the president said from London that he still intends to impose a 5 percent tariff next week to pressure the Mexican government to be more aggressive in stopping the rising number of Central American residents traveling through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.
Trump told reporters it would be foolish for Republicans in Congress to fight him on this issue. Given that the Republican members of the legislative branch have rolled over for the president so many times in the past two years, the odds dictate that Trump’s remark is accurate.
This is not to defend the president’s decision. Tariffs are the worst possible way to do something about people seeking asylum at the Mexican border. If Trump follows through on these instincts, he’s putting the health of the American economy at risk. That’s too high a price.
Instead, it’s simply difficult to believe that enough Republican legislators would choose this issue to stand up to the president. The law that allows the president to order tariffs requires him to declare a national emergency. But the same law also gives Congress the authority to pass a “resolution of disapproval,” which would squash the emergency declaration.
If Democrats are willing to vote for such a resolution (an uncertain prospect since a good many congressmen with labor union support probably don’t mind tariffs at all), it’s possible that Republicans could provide a veto-proof margin.
Congress passed a similar resolution in March after the president moved money around for border wall construction. But Trump vetoed it.
Perhaps tariffs on Mexico are more important to Republican lawmakers than the loss of their budgeting authority — especially those who worry about a recession in advance of the 2020 elections. But perhaps not. No one should believe this slap at the president will occur until it actually does.