Trump’s Mexico tariff plan divides Republicans

President Trump’s latest effort to crack down on migration at the southern border by imposing punitive tariffs on Mexican goods appears to be driving a wedge between the White House and some of Trump’s biggest supporters in the Senate — including immigration hard-liners who ordinarily back him on border security issues. Among Senate Republicans, only Lindsey Graham of South Carolina publicly backed the tariff plan.

“I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said Thursday evening, shortly after the White House announced its new tariff tactic.

Grassley, an Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which handles trade issues, told reporters Thursday that the move was “a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” and expressed concern that “following through on this threat would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA,” the new trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that the Trump administration is pushing as a replacement for the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

On Friday, a number of the president’s other immigration allies seemed to follow Grassley’s lead, including fellow Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.

Among other aspects of the president’s immigration agenda, Ernst has been a vocal proponent of Trump’s push for a border wall. Both she and Grassley voted against legislation to block emergency funding to construct the wall. However, like Grassley, Ernst expressed fears about potential damage these new tariffs might cause the USMCA and, as a result, voters in their state.

“The livelihoods of Iowa farmers and producers are at stake,” Ernst said a statement Friday. “The USMCA would provide much-needed certainty to our agriculture community, at a time when they need it. If the president goes through with this, I’m afraid progress to get this trade agreement across the finish line will be stifled.”

Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Donald Trump and Martha McSally. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Getty Images)
Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Donald Trump and Martha McSally. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Getty Images)

Various sectors of the U.S. economy are expected to feel the pain of Trump’s announced tariffs, which would start at 5 percent on June 10 and increase at the start of each subsequent month until they reach 25 percent in October, unless the White House decides Mexico has met its demands, which were only loosely defined. However, according to CNBC, the three states likely to suffer the most from this plan are Arizona, Michigan and Texas. Republicans from those states took notice.

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