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Republican senators warned Trump administration officials Tuesday they were prepared to block the president’s effort to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, promising what would be GOP lawmakers’ most brazen defiance of the president since he took office.

During a closed-door lunch, at least a half-dozen senators spoke in opposition to the tariffs, while no one spoke in support, according to multiple people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Senators told officials from the White House and Department of Justice that there could be a disapproval vote if Trump moves forward — and this time, unlike with an earlier disapproval resolution, opponents of Trump’s tariffs could have enough support to override a veto.

“I think the administration ought to be concerned about another vote of disapproval on another national emergency act, this time trying to implement tariffs. Tariffs are not real popular in the Republican conference,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), summarizing what he said he’d told the administration officials. “This is a different vote.”

“There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that’s for sure,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He said senators hope negotiations with Mexico will be “fruitful” and the tariffs won’t happen.

The lunch meeting occurred just hours after Trump, during a news conference in London, reiterated his intention to impose the tariffs next week and said it would be “foolish” for Republican senators to try to stop him. The 5 percent tariffs on all Mexican goods, rising to 25 percent over time, are aimed at trying to force Mexico to take action to stop the tide of Central American migrants seeking entry into the United states.

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, right, speaks at a news conference at the Mexican Embassy in Washington on June 4. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The administration lawyers who attended the meeting were not clear on whether the White House would use the existing national emergency Trump declared earlier this year on the border to justify the tariffs — or issue a new declaration, senators said.

But some Republicans said the opposition to Trump’s proposed levies on Mexico runs so deep that enough GOP Senators would be willing to defy the president on any disapproval vote involving the tariffs.

“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.”

It takes two-thirds support in the House and the Senate to overturn a presidential veto.

“I didn’t hear many senators if any say that they wanted a tariff,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-ind.) said.

Trump: It would be ‘foolish’ for Republicans to try to block Mexico tariffs

At a June 4 news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump reiterated that tariffs on Mexico would go into effect next week.

Earlier, at a press conference in London, Trump said talks with Mexico will continue even as he goes forward with the tariffs.

“It’s more likely the tariffs go on and we’ll probably be talking during the time the tariffs are on,” Trump said at the press conference in Britain with Prime Minister Theresa May.

White House officials on Tuesday were preparing to implement the tariffs next week. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top administration officials plan to meet with Mexican leaders Wednesday, but White House officials have been careful not to specify precise actions they expect Mexico to take in exchange for not imposing the tariffs. Some Trump advisers think that the president likes negotiating from a position of strength and that he believes he will have more leverage over Mexico if the tariffs are in position.

As for GOP talk of voting on a disapproval resolution to block the levies , Trump said, “Oh, I don’t think they will do that, I think if they did it’s foolish.”

He added: “There’s nothing more important than borders. I’ve had tremendous Republican support.”

Trump shocked U.S. lawmakers and Mexican leaders last week by announcing that he would impose a 5 percent tariff on all goods imported from Mexico on June 10, and then increase the levies each month if the border with the United States isn’t closed to migrants.

GOP lawmakers warned White House officials that the tariffs could imperil the chances of passing an overhaul of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, but Trump has remained undeterred.

Trump suggested Tuesday that Mexico could take action to stave off the tariffs, and Mexican officials expressed optimism that they could reach a deal to avoid the penalties.

“Mexico shouldn’t allow millions of people to try and enter our country, and they could stop it very quickly and I think they will,” Trump said. “And if they won’t, we’re going to put tariffs on. And every month those tariffs go from 5 percent to 10 percent to 15 percent to 20 [percent] and then to 25 percent.”

Trump’s tone as he addressed reporters in London contrasted with that of Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday that he thought his country had an 80 percent chance of reaching a deal.

Mexico has begun a vigorous offensive to avert the U.S. tariffs .

Mexico’s economic minister, agriculture minister and others are meeting with U.S. counterparts, and delegations of Mexican lawmakers and business leaders are also heading to Washington to warn against the tariffs. The penalties could severely affect Mexico, which sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States, its top trading partner.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also expressed optimism Tuesday at a news conference in Mexico when he said he is confident that the two sides “will reach an accord before the 10th of June.”

Trump told reporters that his top aides would meet with the Mexicans on Wednesday and that “we are going to see if we can do something, but I think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on.”

Traditional pro-business Republican groups also have announced strong opposition to the tariffs, and some are urging Congress to act. Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by the Koch brothers, sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday calling the proposed tariffs “the largest tax hike in modern history” and saying that “it’s time for Congress to do its job.”

“Given the potential damage to our economy and our national interests, we believe it is time for Congress to reclaim its constitutionally mandated authority to impose tariffs, and to prevent further unilateral tariff increases by the president,” the letter says.

Mexican officials have indicated that they are willing to take new steps to restrain the movement of migrants to the U.S. border, although they haven’t described them publicly.

The Trump administration has listed three actions it wants from Mexico: strengthening its southern border with Guatemala; stepping up interdiction of busses filled with migrants being smuggled through its territory; and agreeing to accept asylum seekers instead of allowing them to proceed to the U.S. border.

Mexican officials have ruled out the third request.

U.S. authorities have detained more than 100,000 migrants along the Mexican border in each of the past two months. Mexico has nearly tripled monthly deportations since the start of the year but is struggling to cope with the rising flow of migrants.

John Wagner and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report. Sheridan reported from Mexico City.

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Sorgente: GOP lawmakers warn White House they’ll try to block Trump’s Mexico tariffs | The Washington Post