List: GOP Senators Who Undercut Trump During Mexico Negotiations

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 17, 2018. McConnell says there is "indisputable evidence" Russia tried to affect the 2016 presidential election. He says the Senate understands the "Russia threat" and that is the "widespread view here in the United States Senate among members of both parties." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico if the two sides could not reach an agreement that would slow down the flow of illegal migration at the two country’s southern borders. Late last night the president announced on Twitter that an agreement had been reached, thereby avoiding the planned tariff, which would have taken effect on Monday.

While it was a huge win for the president, the biggest losers were Republican Senators, who – during the negotiations, didn’t just fail to support the president, actually tried to undercut his leverage by making public statements to the press that could only be described as aiding Mexico in the negotiations.

Republican Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) felt the same way.

“I’m disappointed that so many of my colleagues are quick to announce their opposition,” said Cramer. “By so publicly rebuking the president’s strategy you undermine the very leverage that could end this thing quickly. That’s the irony to me.”

What else is new? They are a despicable bunch.

Here’s a round up of Mexico-Friendly quotes from the Koch/Donahue wing of the GOP:

1. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said, “I am all for fair trade. I am all for securing our border. But I am not for turning our backs on American workers and consumers. Nor can I turn my back on the free market truths that have made America’s economy the strongest in the world. Tariffs are a bad idea, plain and simple.”

2. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said, “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. This is a different vote.”

3. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), said, “He [Trump] does not need to force Mexico’s hand because experts would say that Mexico has been doing more than it has ever done to curb migrants from illegally entering the U.S.” When asked if he agreed with the Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity that tariffs are a tax on consumers, Portman said, “These tariffs would likely have an impact on our consumers.”

4. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “There is no doubt we have an emergency at the border. But there is no reason for Texas farmers and ranchers and manufacturers and small businesses to pay the price of massive new taxes. If the outcome of this game of chicken is massive new tariffs that destroy jobs in Texas and across America that would be a terrible outcome.”

5. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, “It’s so universal it doesn’t get much coverage but I don’t think there’s much new here in Republicans in the Senate concerned about tariffs and how you’re using them to negotiate trade policy. It’s hard to imagine how this helps. The the same day you lay the USMCA legislative piece down is when you announce this tariff on Mexico?”

6. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said, “We have a lot of members who are very concerned, I think, about where this is headed. Congress is going to want to probably be heard from in terms of trying to limit Trump’s tariff authority.”

7. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) said, “As a general matter, I think Congress has shifted and delegated way too much power to the executive branch over decades. This is not an observation about Donald Trump. That’s a general thing that Congress has done, and now we’re seeing the consequences of that in ways that nobody expected, nobody anticipated and, frankly, I think, many members of Congress don’t agree with.”

8. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, “We don’t even know what the president’s ultimately going to do. I know he’s, sometimes in his frustration, expressed his intention to do certain things but after calm reflection and consultation with the members of the Congress has decided maybe to pursue a different course, so that’s what I hope would happen here.”

9. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told reporters on Monday that she had spoken to Trump about his tariff threat over the weekend and urged him to back down, but he appeared to be unmoved. “He’s a tariff guy,” said Ernst, who added that she was “not pleased” about the tariffs.

10. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, “I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them. Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent.”

11. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said, “There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that’s for sure.”

12. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said, “I think there will end up being a vote on this and I really do think that there may be enough numbers of people who think we shouldn’t be allowing one person to make this decision, that we may actually have enough to override a veto on this.”

13. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) said, “We have a deal with Mexico on trade. It’s called NAFTA. In fact, we just shook hands on a new deal. It’s called NAFTA 2. When you give your word, you stick to it, and I really worry about us negotiating trade deals with other countries and whether those countries will wonder, well if we make concessions and trade hard and we reach a deal, will America stick to it?”

14. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said, “I would not be inclined to vote on a tariff against a friend [Mexico].”

15. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) mocked the Trump administration, saying, “The White House is trying to use tariffs to solve every problem but HIV and climate change.”

16. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) called Trump’s tariff threat “extremely counterproductive.”

17. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said, “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.”

18. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) criticized White House representatives who weren’t able to explain how the import tax could be compatible with Trump’s new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. “Do they really think that they can do both? I think what I took away from the discussion (with White House) was that it was kind of above their pay grade to reconcile that,” Murkowski said.

19. Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said, “Mexico is Arizona’s number one trading partner, accounting for over $16 billion in 2018 alone. While I support the president’s intention of stopping illegal immigration, I do not support these types of tariffs, which will harm our economy and be passed onto Arizona small businesses and families.”

20. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) said, “I will work with the president to do anything I can to help him get our trade situation in order again, our border security and all this other stuff. But if we’re just going to pop around like a June bug, we’re not getting anything accomplished, and it’s starting to show.”

Note: This is a preliminary list. I will add others as I continue to research more this weekend.

GOP Senators who seemed to support the president the most, at least through media appearances, were the aforementioned Cramer, along with Marco Rubio (FL), Lindsey Graham (SC), Tom Cotton (Ark.), David Perdue (GA), and Rick Scott (FL).

Senators who more or less stayed quiet, or tried to nuance it – at least until it played out, were: John Boozman (Ark.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Mike Braun (IN) Todd Young (IN), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Jim Risch (Idaho), Bill Cassidy (LA), Richard Shelby (AL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Josh Hawley (MO), Steve Daines (MT), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), John Hoeven (ND), Tim Scott (SC), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Mike Rounds (SD), Mike Lee (Utah), Mike Enzi (WY), Thom Tillis (NC), Richard Burr (NC), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), and John Barrasso (WY).

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