Republican senators step up pressure on Trump over Mexico tariffs

Senate Republicans are discussing ways to block President Donald Trump from imposing tariffs on Mexican goods out of concerns over their impact on the U.S. economy — and the president said Tuesday the GOP would be "foolish" to do so.

"I don't think they will do that," Trump said during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London. "I think if they do, it's foolish."

The president has vowed to apply tariffs of 5 percent on all Mexican goods next week and increase the rate to 25 percent in coming months if Mexico does not substantially halt illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexican border, which is at a decade high this year.

Asked if Mexico, which has recently stepped up border apprehensions and deportations of Central American migrants, was doing enough to stave off tariffs, Trump said Tuesday that "it's more likely that the tariffs go on" than not.

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Republican senators, however, warned after a policy lunch with administration lawyers on Tuesday that the president doesn't have the political backing to impose the tariffs, and that they could deal him an embarrassing rebuke if he decides to move forward.

“I think the administration ought to be concerned about another vote of disapproval on another national emergency act, this time about trying to implement tariffs,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told reporters after the lunch.

More than half a dozen senators raised concerns or asked questions of the two administration lawyers at the meeting, according to multiple sources, as well as a senator who attended.

Johnson said he told the lawyers to pass on the message that there is a good chance Congress would defeat any attempt to impose the tariffs by voting to disapprove of the action, suggesting Congress would be able to override a presidential veto.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday afternoon acknowledged his party's opposition to Trump's plan.

"There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that's for sure," he said.

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Products directly hit by Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods
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Products directly hit by Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods
Meat: pork; beef intestine; rabbit meat; venison; frog legs
Fish and seafood:live fish including ornamental fish, trout, eels, tuna, and carp; chilled or frozen meat of various types of trout, salmon, halibut, plaice, sole, albacore, tuna, herring, mackerel, cobia, swordfish, pollack, whiting, catfish, rays, and more; various types of salted or smoked fish; other seafood including various types of lobsters, crabs, shrimps, prawns, oysters, scallops, mussels, clams, squid, octopus, conchs, abalone, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins.
Non-meat animal products such as eggs and dairy:Whey products; butter; various types of eggs including chicken; honey; hair of animals including human, hog, horse and badger; animal intestines, bladders; feathers; bones including shells, beaks, corals, hooves, antlers, and more.
Vegetables:onions; garlic; cauliflower and broccoli; cabbage; carrots; turnips; radishes; beats; cucumbers; peas of various types; beans; lentils; celery; mushrooms; peppers of various types; squash; okra; sweet corn; potatoes; sweet potatoes and yams; some types of tomatoes; spinach; Brussels sprouts.
Fruit and Nuts: Coconuts; cashews; almonds; hazelnuts; walnuts; chestnuts; pistachios; macadamia nuts; pecans; dates; figs; pineapples; guavas; oranges; mandarins; clementines; raisins; grapes; apples; pears; quinces; peaches; berries including strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, blueberries and others; bananas; a variety of dried fruits; peels of various fruits.
Cereals: wheat, including durum wheat; barley; oats; corn; various types of rice; grain sorghum; buckwheat; quinoa; and more.
Mill products: flours including those form wheat, corn, buckwheat, rice, rye, other cereals, potatoes, and bananas; groats and meal of various types including wheat, corn, oats, and rice; malt; starches of wheat, corn, potato, and more
Oil seeds: soybeans; seeds of sunflower, flax seed, sesame, mustard, poppy and more; planting seeds for certain crops; cocoas and mint leaves; and seaweeds.
Sugars and candies: cane sugar; candies with no cocoa
Breads and Pasta: uncooked pasta; various breads, pastries, cakes, and biscuits.
Prepared vegetables and fruits: various vegetables and fruits previously listen in their prepared or preserved forms; various fruit jams including strawberry, pineapple, apricot, and more; peanut butter; various fruit juices including orange, pineapple, lime, grape, apple, and more.
Other food items: soy sauce; condiments and seasonings; protein concentrates.
Beverages and vinegars: water, including mineral water; fruit or vegetable juices and juice mixes; beer from malt; wine, including rice wine; ethyl alcohol; vinegars
Food processing waste and animal feed: brans from processing; oil cakes; dog or cat food; animal feed
Tobacco products: various types and preparations of tobacco; tobacco refuse; cigars; cigarettes; smoking tobacco
Salts and minerals: salt/sodium chloride; sulfur; graphite; quartz; types of clays; chalk; slate; marble; granite; sandstone; dolomite; gypsum; some plasters; some types of cement; mica; Epsom salts
Ores, slag, and ash: ores of iron, copper, nickel, cobalt, aluminum, lead, zinc, tin, chromium, tungsten, uranium, titanium, silver, other precious metals, and others; slag, various types of ash.
Mineral fuels and oils: coal; lignite; peat; coke; tars; various types of light oil; various types of kerosene; petroleum oils; liquefied fuels including natural gas, propane, butane, ethylene, and petroleum; oil shale and tar sands
Inorganic Chemicals: chemicals such as chlorine, sulfur; carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and silicon; acids including sulfuric, nitric, and more; various types of fluorides, chlorides, sulfates, nitrates, carbonates, and more.
Organic chemicals
Fertilizers: animal or vegetable fertilizers; urea; ammonium sulfate; sodium nitrate; and more.
Tanning and drying extracts, dyes, and paints
Essential oils, perfumes: perfume; lip or eye make up preparations; manicure or pedicure products; shampoo; hairspray; bath salts.
Soaps and cleaning products: various types of soap; leather and textile treatments; polishes for shoes and furniture.
Glues, adhesives, and enzymes
Cigarette lighter fluid
Photographic goods: various types of photo plates; instant film; various types of film in rolls; various types of motion picture film.
Various chemical products: pesticides; herbicides; fungicides
Plastics: vinyl flooring and other plastic floor and wall coverings; sausage casings; bags; gloves including baseball gloves; rain jackets; machinery belts.
Rubber: latex; rods, tubes, and other products; conveyor belts; various types of transmission belts; various types of pneumatic tires; gloves; gaskets; dock fenders.
Raw hides and leather: animal skins including cow, buffalo, sheep, goats, reptile; various types of leather made from cow, buffalo, sheep, goats, reptile; leather trunks and suitcases; leather handbags; CD cases; gloves including ski, ice hockey, and typical use; belts; fur clothing, incluidng artificial fur.
Wood: fuel wood; charcoal; various types of wood including oak, beech, maple, ash and cherry; moldings; rods; particleboard; various types of plywood; doors; corks and stoppers; wicker and bamboo baskets.
Wood pulp products
Paper: Newsprint; writing paper; vegetable parchment; carbon paper; self-adhesive paper; cigarette paper; envelopes; tablecloths; handkerchiefs; folders.
Silk
Wool or animal hair products: cashmere; yarns; tapestries and upholstery.
Cotton: fibers; thread; yarn; denim; satin.
Flax: yarn; fabrics
Man-made textiles: polypropylene; rayon; nylon; polyester
Other textile products, rope, twine: hammocks; fish nets; carpets;
Fabrics: corduroy; gauze; terry towel; lace; badges; embroidery
Headgear: caps; hairnets; wool hats; head bands
Stone, plaster, cement, asbestos: stone for art; marble slabs; roofing slate; millstones; sandpaper; floor or wall tiles; cement bricks.
Ceramics: fire bricks; pipes; tiles; porcelain and china.
Glass and glassware: balls; rods; drawn or blown glass; float glass; tempered safety glass; mirrors; carboys, bottles, jars, pots, flasks, and other containers; microscope slides; woven fiberglass
Precious stones and pearls: industrial diamonds; silver and products made of silver; gold and products made of gold; platinum; palladium.
Iron and steel and products derived from the metals:drums; tubes; pipes; doors; windows; screws; horseshoes;
Copper: plates; cables; tubes; pipes; springs
Nickel: bars; rods; wires
Aluminum:powder; cable; wire; screws.
Various metal products, tools, cutlery: industrial items made from lead, zinc, tin, and more; saw blades; bolt cutters; hammers; wrenches; crow bars.
Machinery, both industrial and retail: steam turbines; engines; fuel-injection pumps; air compressors; air conditioning machines; refrigerators; cream separators; hydraulic jacks; escalators; manure spreaders; copiers; automatic beverage-vending machines
Electronics: vacuum cleaners; hair clippers; spark plugs; generators; bicycle lights; electric amps; television cameras; various types of TVs; video projectors.
Vehicles and parts: axles; driving shafts; gear boxes; radiators.
Parachutes

Ships and boats: sailboats; motorboats; canoes; yachts.

Instruments for scientific or medical purposes: microscopes; cameras for non-art purposes; gauges for pressure, electrical currents, and more.
Clocks and watches
Furniture, bedding, mattresses: car seats; wood chairs; furniture designed for offices, kitchens, and more; mattresses; chandeliers; lamps.

Assorted items: buttons; stamps; paintings; collections of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, anatomical, historical, archaeological interest; antiques of an age exceeding one hundred years

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Asked if he would try to block the tariffs, the Kentucky Republican noted the administration's talks with Mexican officials this week on tariffs and immigration and said "our hope is that the tariffs will be avoided and we'll not have to answer any hypotheticals such as you suggest."

A move to block Trump's tariffs on Mexico, which are set to go into effect June 10, would be one of the most significant repudiations of the president by his own party to date. With the help of 12 Republican senators, Congress passed a resolution of disapproval in March to override Trump's use of his national emergency declaration to reapportion billions of dollars for his border wall, which Trump vetoed.

If enough Republicans supported another resolution of disapproval because of their frustration over Trump's planned tariffs, it would undermine both the tariffs and the president's border wall funding. At least 20 Republican senators would be needed to override a presidential veto, assuming all Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them supported the move.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R- S.D., said earlier Tuesday that a resolution of disapproval would probably gain more support from GOP lawmakers this time, but members were trying to understand what authority the president was using, the goal of the tariffs and the actions Mexico would need to take to have them lifted.

"There’s a lot of questions about it," Thune said. "But I mean, suffice it to say, our members have a lot of concerns. They are very concerned about it."

Republican lawmakers and the business community are worried that the White House hasn't fully thought through the possible economic consequences of the proposed tariffs, two Republican Senate sources told NBC News. Some lawmakers are also concerned about the White House's lack of messaging, planning and forethought on the tariffs, the sources said.

After Trump announced the tariffs, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement that the president "is right to point out the crisis at our southern border. However, a blanket tax increase on everything Americans purchase from Mexico is the wrong remedy."

"Tariffs are a dangerous and risky economic tool," Toomey said. "They raise the cost of products for American families, reduce market share abroad for U.S. exporters, and make our economy less competitive globally. History has shown us time and again that nobody wins a trade war: Trade is mutually beneficial, and trade restrictions, like tariffs, are mutually harmful."

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that Trump's planned tariffs could also jeopardize the ratification of the trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, or USMCA, which the leaders of the three countries signed in November.

“This has really thrown an apple of discord into it," Pelosi, D-Calif., told NBC News, adding that Republicans "really got to separate themselves from the president on this because it’s so detrimental."

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Trump joins leaders of Canada, Mexico to sign new trade pact
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Trump joins leaders of Canada, Mexico to sign new trade pact
President Donald Trump, center, reaches out to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they prepare to sign a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is replacing the NAFTA trade deal, during a ceremony at a hotel before the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The USMCA, as Trump refers to it, must still be approved by lawmakers in all three countries. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, participate in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, participate in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, participate in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
El presidente Donald Trump, el primer ministro de Canadá Justin Trudeau, a la derecha, y el presidente de México, Enrique Peña Neto, a la izquierda, participan en la ceremonia de firma de la USMCA, el viernes 30 de noviembre de 2018 en Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Foto / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, center, smiles as he speaks next to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, applauding, before they sign a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is replacing the NAFTA trade deal, during a ceremony at a hotel before the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The USMCA, as Trump refers to it, must still be approved by lawmakers in all three countries. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Mexico President Enrique Pena Neto, left, as Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, looks on after participating in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, walk out after participating in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto speaks as President Donald Trump looks on before they sign a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is replacing the NAFTA trade deal, during a ceremony at a hotel before the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The USMCA, as Trump refers to it, must still be approved by lawmakers in all three countries. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
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Some Republican senators also expressed concern Tuesday about the impact of tariffs on congressional efforts to approve the trade deal.

"We need to separate the issues," Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said. "One, for Iowa, it is important we get the trade deals done. So USMCA needs to take priority and then talk about other options other than tariffs would be my want, my thought, my desire. If we can dissuade the president I’d like to do that.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also said she was against the tariffs.

"We don’t agree with tariffs as a strategy, but in this particular case, I think it further muddles the water because we had real momentum here, and I think many colleagues are saying the tariffs have to come off before we can look at the trade deals," she said.

The Trump administration kicked off the congressional approval process for the trade deal last week despite House Democrats' lingering concerns about the effects of the agreement, prompting Pelosi to say in a statement that the move was "not a positive step“ and indicated "a lack of knowledge on the part of the administration on the policy and process to pass a trade agreement."

Global equities tumbled after Trump's unexpected threat last week of tariffs against the United States' biggest trade partner, as investors feared his aggressive trade diplomacy could tip the United States and other major economies into recession.

To head off the punitive tariffs, a senior Mexican delegation began high-level talks Monday in Washington, where it was expected to be pushed to do more to hold back Central American migrants.

Trump on Sunday called Mexico an "abuser" of the United States and said he wanted action, not talk. Mexico has signaled it would retaliate to the tariffs, with targets likely to include farm products on Trump supporting states.

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