- 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)
Senate Democrats To Introduce Voting Rights Bill This Week
Republicans are expected to block the legislation, but Democratic leaders hope the GOP’s unified opposition will lay the groundwork to justify getting rid of the filibuster.
Voting Bill Set for Floor
Senate Democrats are officially set to advance their voting rights bill this week, with a procedural vote to start debate on the legislation scheduled for Tuesday.
The move comes as an increasing number of Democrats and progressive activists have begun to embrace a more watered-down version of the bill proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the sole Democrat who opposed the initial proposal on the grounds that it was too partisan.
While Democrats have spent the weekend hashing out the final details of compromise on Manchin’s bill, which he has touted as a more bipartisan compromise, Senate Republicans have still broadly rejected it.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who previously opposed the initial For the People Act as too far-reaching, called Manchin’s alternative proposal “equally unacceptable” and predicted that no members of his party will vote in favor.
The legislation is all but guaranteed to fail in the chamber, where it will require all 50 Democrats and at least 10 Republicans to overcome the filibuster.
However, bringing the bill to the floor still has major utility for Democrats because it will lay the groundwork for the party to justify scrapping the filibuster entirely.
Pathway for Filibuster Reform
Specifically, if Manchin agrees to some form of the bill which Republicans then filibuster, Democrats can say they had the to votes to pass the legislation if the filibuster were removed.
That, in turn, would bolster the Democratic argument that bipartisanship cannot be a precondition to taking actions to secure our democracy if it relies on reaching common ground with a party that they believe is increasingly and transparently committed to undermining democracy.
It would also give more ground to the Democratic claim that the GOP is abusing existing Senate rules to block policy changes that have gained wide public support following the Jan. 6 insurrection and amid the growing efforts by Republican governors and legislatures to restrict voting access in their states.
As a result, if Republicans block the legislation along party lines, Democratic leaders hope that could change objections to scrapping the filibuster voiced privately by some members and publicly by Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.).
This is especially true for Tuesday’s planned vote, because it is just a vote to proceed to debate, meaning that if Republicans filibuster, they will be preventing the Senate from even debating any efforts to protect democracy, including Manchin’s plan which he crafted specifically to reach a compromise with the GOP.
Whether a full party rejection would be enough to move the needle for Manchin and the other Democrats remains to be seen. Any successful overhaul of the contentious Senate rule would not only be incredibly significant for President Joe Biden’s agenda, but also for the precedent it could set.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (USA Today)
McConnell Says He Would Block a Biden SCOTUS Nominee in 2024
The Senate Minority Leader also refused to say whether or not he would block a hypothetical nominee in 2023 if his party overtakes the chamber’s slim majority in the midterm elections.
McConnell Doubles Down
During an interview with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to block a hypothetical Supreme Court nominee from President Joe Biden in 2024 if Republicans took control of the Senate.
“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” he said. “So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.”
McConnell’s remarks do not come as a surprise as they are in line with his past refusal to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in February 2016 on the grounds that it was too close to the presidential election.
The then-majority leader received a ton of backlash for his efforts, especially after he forced through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation just eight days before the 2020 election. At the time, McConnell argued the two situations were different because the Senate and the president were from the same party — a claim he reiterated in the interview.
McConnell also implied he may take that stance even further in comments to Hewitt, who asked if he would block the appointment of a Supreme Court justice if a seat were to be vacated at the end of 2023 about 18 months before the next inauguration — a precedent set by the appointment of Anthony Kennedy.
“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell responded.
Many Democrats immediately condemned McConnell’s remarks, including progressive leaders who renewed their calls to expand the court.
“Mitch McConnell is already foreshadowing that he’ll steal a 3rd Supreme Court seat if he gets the chance. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. We need to expand the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Ma.).
Some also called on Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest SCOTUS judge, to retire.
“If Breyer refuses to retire, he’s not making some noble statement about the judiciary. He is saying he wants Mitch McConnell to handpick his replacement,” said Robert Cruickshank, campaign director for Demand Progress.
Others, however, argued that the response McConnell’s remarks elicited was exactly what he was hoping to see and said his timing was calculated.
The minority leader’s comments come as the calls for Breyer to step down have recently grown while the current Supreme Court term draws near, a time when justices often will announce their retirement.
On Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was asked if she thought Breyer should leave the bench while Democrats still controlled the Senate. She responded that she was “inclined to say yes.”
With his latest public statement, McConnell’s aims are twofold here: he hopes to broaden divisions in the Democratic Party between progressives and more traditional liberals, who are more hesitant to rush Breyer to retire or expand the court, while simultaneously working to unite a fractured Republican base and encourage them to turn out in the midterm elections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Hill)
Gov. Abbott Says Texas Will Build Border Wall With Mexico
The announcement follows months of growing tension between the Texas governor and President Biden over immigration policies.
Texas Border Wall
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced during a press conference Thursday that the state would build a border wall with Mexico, extending the signature campaign promise of former President Donald Trump.
Abbott provided very few details for the border wall plans, and it is unclear if he has the authority to build it.
While some of the land is state-owned, much of it belongs to the federal government or falls on private property.
Even if the state were able to build on federal ground, private landowners who fought the Trump administration’s attempts to take their land through eminent domain would still remain an obstacle for any renewed efforts.
During his term, Trump built over 450 miles of new wall, but most of it covered areas where deteriorating barriers already existed, and thus had previously been approved for the federal project.
The majority of the construction also took place in Arizona, meaning Abbott would have much ground to cover. It is also unclear how the governor plans to pay for the wall.
Trump had repeatedly said Mexico would fund the wall, but that promise remained unfulfilled, and the president instead redirected billions of taxpayer dollars from Defense Department reserves.
While Abbott did say he would announce more details about the wall next week, his plan was condemned as ill-planned by immigration activists, who also threatened legal challenges.
“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, the co-executive director of the Texas-based immigration legal aid and advocacy group American Gateways. “It’s not going to make any border community or county safer.”
Abbott’s announcement comes amid escalating tensions between the governor and the administration of President Joe Biden.
Biden issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office, and has since undone multiple Trump-era immigration policies. Abbott, for his part, has blamed Biden’s rollback of Trump’s rules for the influx of migrants at the border in recent months.
Two weeks ago, the governor deployed over 1,000 National Guard members and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the border as part of an initiative launched in March to ramp up border security dubbed Operation Lone Star.
Last week, Abbott issued a disaster declaration which, among other measures, directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to strip the state licenses of all shelters that house migrant children and have contracts with the federal government.
The move, which federal officials have already threatened to take legal action against, could effectively force the 52 state-licensed shelters housing around 8,600 children to move the minors elsewhere.
During Thursday’s press conference, Abbott also outlined a variety of other border initiatives, including appropriating $1 billion for border security, creating a task force on border security, and increasing arrests for migrants who enter the country illegally.
“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” he said. “Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.”