If it does happen, it’s because Trump finally stumbled across a protectionist policy so destructive that his party is momentarily more scared of swing voters than they are of Trump’s base. Even Ted Cruz is showing some spine, notes the Times, improbably.
What Republicans are doing here, I suspect, is playing chicken with him before the new tariffs have taken effect, when there’s still time for him to swerve by reaching an accommodation with Mexico. E.g., “Save face by pulling the plug or we’ll humiliate you by doing it ourselves.” If he calls their bluff, they’ll get close-ish to 67 votes. But not quite all the way there.
[Senate Republicans] emerged from a closed-door lunch in the Capitol angered by the briefing they received from a deputy White House counsel, Patrick F. Philbin, and Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel on the legal basis for imposing new tariffs by declaring a national emergency.
“I want you to take a message back” to the White House, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, told the attorneys, according to people familiar with the meeting. “You didn’t hear a single yes” from the Republican conference. He called the proposed tariffs a $30 billion tax hike on Texans…
Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said he warned the lawyers that the Senate could muster an overwhelming majority to beat back the tariffs, even if Mr. Trump were to veto a resolution disapproving them.
“We’re holding a gun to our own heads,” said the other senator from Texas, John Cornyn. If Trump goes ahead with this plan and Texans take a massive economic hit, I wonder if Beto O’Rourke won’t pull the ripcord on his stalled presidential campaign and decide it’s worth taking a second shot at the Senate back home after all.
McConnell hinted to Trump at a press after today’s lunch that it’s time to make a deal with Mexico to avert a crisis:
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 4, 2019
Mitt Romney also said he thought it was “likely” that the two sides would reach a deal before the tariffs took effect next week, per the Times. Even some friendlier faces in the caucus, like Kevin Cramer, took to warning Trump not to call the Senate’s bluff this time:
“I sure do,” Sen Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said when asked whether he thought there would be at least 20 Republican votes to reject Trump’s tariffs on Mexico — which would constitute a veto-proof margin in combination with Democratic opposition. “I think in light of every ball that’s up in the air whether it’s USMCA, China … in light of all of that stuff and in light of all of that tariff activity which threatens to stifle the tremendous economic growth we now get to take credit for, particularly in the down commodity cycle with agriculture, there’s just a weariness of tariffs as the only tool in the tool kit that gets used.”
The business lobby is also leaning heavily on Congress to stand firm against this Trump on this, naturally. Practically the only support Trump’s getting in the caucus is coming from that noted protectionist border hawk … Marco Rubio:
The law provides @potus broad authority to control transactions with other nations if there is an unusual & extraordinary threat to the national security &/or economy of the U.S.. Unlawful migration & drug flow transiting through #Mexico into U.S. clearly poses such a threat.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 3, 2019
The current situation is unsustainable. A humanitarian crisis with serious economic & security concerns for both the U.S. & #Mexico that requires decisive action. It is encouraging that Mexico agreed to talk with the U.S. this week. We need them to enforce their own laws.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 3, 2019
There may, I suppose, be 67 votes *at the moment* to block Trump’s tariffs, but give Trumpist media and hardcore restrictionists a few days to threaten Senate Republicans with accusations that they’re “economic traitors,” pro-amnesty, etc, unless they support Trump’s gun-to-our-own-heads strategy. By next Monday it’ll be 65, tops. Maybe not even that.
Here’s Trump crony Rand Paul, who in fairness did have the courage of convictions in voting to block the president’s border emergency in March, warning him not to go forward with the new tariffs. If Republicans really want to make Trump squirm, they should tell him that his decision to proceed will leave no choice but to revoke all of his “national security” tariff authority — not just in this matter with Mexico but globally. I think he’d rather be impeached than lose the power to wage unilateral trade war.
RAND PAUL: "If we try to run govt by emergency … 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 him have all the power that the Constitution gave to Congress." pic.twitter.com/XKjVMsB4LU
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 4, 2019