- President Donald Trump announced Thursday that his administration will impose a five percent tariff on all Mexican imports beginning June 10 in order to curb illegal immigration.
- The White House later said that the U.S. will increase the tariffs by five percentage points every month after June until they reach 25 percent in October, where it will remain until Mexico reduces the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S.
- Several Republican lawmakers condemned the tariffs, arguing that they could undermine the ongoing efforts to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
President Donald Trump said Thursday that he would impose a five percent tariff on all Mexican goods starting June 10, in an effort to put pressure on Mexico to control illegal immigration.
In a tweet, Trump wrote that the tariffs will continue “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.”
“The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied,” he continued.
A statement later issued from the White House said the tariffs would rise by five percent every month after June, until they hit 25 percent on Oct. 1.
“Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the statement said.
The White House statement did not specifically outline how Mexico can meet Trump’s demands. “If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed,” it said.
In a press briefing, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that there was not a specific target that Mexico was expected to meet. He also stated that the White House would address Mexico’s actions “on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.”
“We are going to judge success here by the number of people crossing the border,” Mulvaney said. “That number needs to start coming down immediately in a significant and substantial number.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded to the announcement in a letter to Trump on Thursday.
In the letter, which was later made public, López Obrador said that he did not want a “confrontation,” and emphasized the need for dialogue. “Social problems are not resolved with taxes or coercive measures,” López Obrador wrote.
However, at a press conference on Thursday night, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jésus Seade, described Trump’s announcement as “disastrous.”
Seade also indicated that if the Trump administration followed through, Mexico could react in a similar fashion.“If it will happen we must respond energetically,” he said.
“The correct thing would be to answer an eye for an eye, five percent on imports.”
U.S. Lawmaker’s Response
Many U.S. lawmakers also responded negatively to Trump’s announcement, including several Republicans who warned the president that the tariffs could derail the ongoing negotiations of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is Trump’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) condemned the tariffs in a statement and asked Trump to “reconsider” the move.
“If the president goes through with this, I’m afraid progress to get this trade agreement across the finish line will be stifled,” she said. “While I support the need for comprehensive border security and a permanent fix to illegal immigration, this isn’t the right path forward.”
Ernst echoed an earlier statement from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which is one of the bodies responsible for overseeing the USMCA.
“Following through on this threat would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA, a central campaign pledge of President Trump’s and what could be a big victory for the country,” Grassley said in a statement. “I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them.”
Trump’s announcement comes at as efforts to negotiate the USMCA were advanced this week. In a letter sent earlier on Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urged congressional leaders to start the treaty ratification process.
The same day, López Obrador officially asked Mexico’s Senate to ratify the deal as well, and Vice President Mike Pence was in the Canadian capital in order to promote the agreement.
Trump also recently agreed to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum that the U.S. had put on imports from Canada and Mexico as part of an effort to speed up negotiations. Canada and Mexico responded by lifting tariffs on U.S. products.
Now, experts and lawmakers worry the new wave of tariffs may send a contradictory message.
Trump Administration Defends Tariffs
Members of the Trump Administration defended the tariffs and argued that they were necessary to curb illegal immigration.
“Mexico has the ability to step up and do more,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Fox News Friday. “The president has been asking them for months to do that, and now he is putting some measures in place that hopefully will get them to engage more so that they will start to help us in this process.”
Other administration officials have framed Trump’s tariffs as an issue of national security, rather than trade.
“These are not tariffs as part of a trade dispute. These are tariffs as part of an immigration problem,” Mulvaney said in a briefing when asked whether or not the tariffs would undermine USMCA negotiations. “The American taxpayer is paying for what’s going on at the border.”
This sentiment was also explicitly addressed in the White House’s statement on the tariffs.
“Mexico’s passive cooperation in allowing this mass incursion constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States,” the statement said. It went on to say that Trump would address the “emergency” by invoking “authorities granted” to him under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Others have pushed back against this. Usually, it is the authority of Congress, and not the president, to raise taxes and tariffs. However, the president can gain the power to raise tariffs by declaring that certain circumstances amount to threats to national security.
To this point, Grassley criticized Trump’s efforts as a “misuse of presidential tariff authority,” that is “counter to congressional intent.”
“Trade policy and border security are separate issues,” Grassley added.
Others still have expressed concerns about the economic impacts of the new tariffs. While Trump claims the tariffs are a punishment for Mexico, many economists argue that the costs will largely be the burden of U.S. businesses and consumers.
This is because tariffs are paid by companies that import products and when U.S. businesses are required to pay the import penalties, that extra cost is often passed along to consumers.
According to the U.S. trade representative’s office, the U.S. imported an estimated total of $346.5 billion of Mexican goods last year, making Mexico the second-largest supplier of goods to the U.S. in 2018.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (The Washington Post) (Fox News)
Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win
The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.
New Maps Upheld
A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.
Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.
The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.
The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.
In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”
The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”
Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.
Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution.
The Path Ahead
While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.
There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.
A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month
The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.
New At-Home Testing Policy
The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.
Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.
The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months.
According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance.
Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.
All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased.
In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.
As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.
If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.
During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”
“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Biden Administration Unveils Plan To Replace All Lead Pipes
The effort builds on the $15 billion allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill for lead pipe replacement, but industry leaders say $60 billion will be needed for nationwide revitalization.
White House Outlines Actions on Lead Pipes and Paint
The Biden administration rolled out a sweeping plan on Thursday to remove all the nation’s lead pipes over the next decade and take other steps to prevent lead paint contamination.
Lead, which was commonly used in piping for municipal water systems all over the country until it was banned in 1978, is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious nervous system damage, especially in children.
Contamination from lead pipes seeping into water supplies has caused multiple high-profile public health and environmental catastrophes over the last decade, including the notorious crisis in Flint, Michigan.
According to a White House factsheet, an estimated 10 million households are connected to water through lead pipes. Children and teenagers in 400,000 schools and child care facilities also risk exposure to lead-contaminated water.
“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks,” the factsheet stated.
To address those disparities and revitalize water systems across the nation, the White House outlined 15 new action items the Biden administration is taking, including:
- Launching “a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water” through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Clarifying that state, local, and Tribal governments can use the $350 billion aid allocated under the American Rescue Plan to replace lead service lines.
- Establishing federally-operated regional technical assistance hubs “to fast track lead service line removal projects in partnership with labor unions and local water agencies.”
- Awarding federal grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove lead paint in low-income communities.
- Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand childhood lead testing.
- Establishing “a new Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Child Care Centers.”
The White House also said it will direct the EPA to allocate $3 billion for state, local, and Tribal governments to replace lead pipes through funding that was approved under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.
A Matter of Funding
In total, Congress provided $15 billion to revitalize the nation’s lead-pipe systems under the infrastructure bill.
However, industry experts have estimated that it will cost $60 billion to entirely overhaul all the remaining lead pipes in the U.S.
As a result, the Biden administration has proposed several additional funding mechanisms in the social safety net package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that is currently being negotiated by Congress.
Specifically, the legislation would set aside $9 billion for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities, $1 billion for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes, and $5 billion for mitigation efforts such as removing lead-based water fixtures in low-income households.
The Build Back Better Act would additionally provide $65 billion for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing organizations to improve housing quality, including by replacing lead pipes and service lines.
The status of that legislation, as well as what provisions will remain in the final version, remain in limbo. While Democratic leadership has pushed to pass the sweeping social bill before the new year, all 50 of the party’s members in the Senate will need to sign on, and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has continued to withhold his support.