Senate Republicans Weigh Moves to Block Trump on Mexico Tariffs

Trump defends plan as needed to address migrants from Central America, says lawmakers would be making a mistake if they try to stop him

Democrats have roundly opposed Mr. Trump’s border stance and his plan to impose tariffs on Mexico. But his announcement triggered blowback from some Senate Republicans as well, who returned this week from a Memorial Day recess ready to consider their options to stop him.

Republican senators will meet behind closed doors Tuesday for a weekly lunch, where the subject is expected to be at the top of the agenda. A White House deputy counsel is expected to attend to discuss the matter.

“If [White House officials] continue down this path and they escalated the tariff, I suspect Congress is going to want to probably be heard from, for sure,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R., S.D.) said on Monday night. He said that Republicans were still in the process of studying the legal authority on which the administration would rely to impose the tariffs.

In comments at a press conference in London alongside U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr. Trump brushed off Republican senators’ concerns, calling any move to block him a mistake.

I don’t think they will do that—if they do, it’s foolish,” Mr. Trump said, when asked what he thought of potential Republican efforts to block his Mexico tariffs. On the state of the talks with Mexico, he said: “We are going to see if we can do something, but I think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on.”

One issue is whether the national emergency Mr. Trump declared earlier this year to divert funds to Mexico border-wall construction also gives him the power to impose tariffs. Some Republicans suspect he sees that declaration as providing the legal basis to impose ever-increasing tariffs as a mechanism to pressure Mexico to stem the flow of migrants. The White House hasn’t publicly cited its legal basis for the tariffs plan.

At a meeting with Senate Republican aides on Monday, one White House counsel indicated that the president intended to rely on a statute called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to impose the tariffs, which is triggered by an emergency declaration. Some Senate GOP aides expect Mr. Trump to declare a new emergency or amend his existing declaration in order to put the tariffs into place.

Republican aides say such a move could prompt a vote to end the tariffs. The vote could be initiated in either the Senate or the House. It is unclear which chamber would vote first, although beginning with a Senate vote might provide political cover to House Republicans who are generally reluctant to challenge Mr. Trump.

A vote to terminate the tariffs is seen as the fastest route to block the president, since such a measure is protected against stalling tactics. Congress used a similar approach earlier this year when it voted to reject Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration.

But Mr. Trump vetoed that measure, and Congress didn’t muster enough votes to override the veto, meaning the national emergency stayed in place.

Congress could also amend the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to make clear that it can’t be used to impose tariffs. The law is typically used to freeze assets and has never before been used in the way that the president contemplates, creating potential legal problems for the administration.

“This is certainly breaking new ground, and that creates both a legal problem potentially if there are court challenges, and it’s also clear from the way Republicans are responding that some of them just don’t like this idea,” said Chris Edelson, an American University government professor who wrote a book on emergency presidential power.

House Democratic leaders have been critical of Mr. Trump’s decision to impose tariffs, but said they were waiting to see how Senate Republicans respond.

“The problem that we confront in this country is that the president often conducts himself in an erratic fashion as it relates to economic policy, particularly in terms of his deployment of tariffs,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said Tuesday.

Why Justin Amash stands alone

“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,” Amash said. “In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.” That judgment is supported by more than 900 former federal prosecutorswho have signed onto a letter reaffirming this exact point.

Not surprisingly, Trump punched back at Amash on Sunday, tweeting that Amash is “a loser” and “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.”

.. First are the cynics who know Trump is unfit, if not dangerous; however, they’ll get what they can (e.g., judges, tax cuts) and bolster their resumes (e.g., working for the administration, getting fawning Fox News coverage). When Trump bottoms out, they’ll move on, probably insisting they were secretly against Trump all along. They consider Republicans who’ve resisted Trump such as the Weekly Standard’s editors and writers, who refused to imbibe the Trump Kool-Aid and in the process lost their publication, to be fools, saps and fusspots upset about a few tweets, dumb lies and crass language. All politicians are rotten, right, so why not grab what you can get?

..So we return to the question that vexes NeverTrumpers and Democrats: Why are Republicans such quivering sycophants, willing to lie and debase themselves in support of an unpopular president who is repudiating many of the principles they have spent their lives advancing?

I’d suggest there are three distinct groups of Republican grovelers. Some may fall into multiple categories.

  1. First are the cynics who know Trump is unfit, if not dangerous; however, they’ll get what they can (e.g., judges, tax cuts) and bolster their resumes (e.g., working for the administration, getting fawning Fox News coverage). When Trump bottoms out, they’ll move on, probably insisting they were secretly against Trump all along. They consider Republicans who’ve resisted Trump such as the Weekly Standard’s editors and writers, who refused to imbibe the Trump Kool-Aid and in the process lost their publication, to be fools, saps and fusspots upset about a few tweets, dumb lies and crass language. All politicians are rotten, right, so why not grab what you can get?
  2. In the second category are Republicans convinced that they’ll never find work if they speak out against Trump. They’ll lose their offices and/or offend Republican officialdom, including think tanks, right-wing media, donors, party activists and elected officials. (They are part of a right-wing ecosystem; some might call it a racket.) No plum lobbying gigs or Fox contributorships for them. They fear ostracism would ruin them financially and personally, leaving them in a political wilderness from which they fear they’d never return. They, like the cynics, occasionally feel a pang of conscience, especially when NeverTrumpers remind them that there is an alternative to self-debasement. They then will swiftly revert to “But Gorsuch and Kavanaugh” or “But taxes” to justify their moral and intellectual collapse. They’ll whisper behind closed doors that Trump is a menace, but coo and kvell over him when the cameras are on.

  3. And finally, there are the cranks, the zealots, the racists and the haters — a group, it turns out, much larger than many ex-Republicans could ever fathom. This includes not just the overt white nationalists and the tea party crowd but also those who have been simmering with personal resentment against “liberal elites.” Vice President Pence insists he and his fellow evangelical Christians are hapless victims; the children and grandchildren of Dixiecrats fume that everything went downhill in the 1960s. Some of these people will insist they are not racists nor misogynists — but yet they sure seem to have an extraordinarily high tolerance for those who are.

If you eliminate the retirees who couldn’t take it any more (e.g., former U.S. senator from Arizona Jeff Flake), the cynics, the scaredy-cats and the resentful self-made victims, you’re down to a precious few congressional Republicans who will refuse to rationalize (and even praise) whatever Trump does. Only 13 House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans voted to block Trump’s noxious emergency declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border, which amounted to a repudiation of our constitutional government of separation of powers.

I’d love to think Amash’s statements free and embolden many more Republicans in the House and Senate to step forward.

Is that likely? No.

This is why voters must continue to reject Trump and Trumpism, driving the current crew of Republicans out of office. Only then, like saplings poking up from the ashes of a forest fire, can new, sustainable and decent political life on the right emerge. Unless and until Amash has many, many allies, the voters must do the heavy lifting of ridding ourselves of Trump and Trumpism.

White House Proposes $4.7 Trillion Budget for Fiscal 2020

Trump’s outline would sharply cut spending on safety-net programs

The Trump administration proposed a $4.7 trillion budget that would sharply reduce spending on safety-net programs, while effectively exempting the Pentagon from strict spending caps set to take effect in fiscal year 2020.

The president’s plan would widen the federal budget deficit to $1.1 trillion in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and would propose to eliminate the deficit by 2034, in part by assuming the economy grows much faster than many independent forecasters expect.