GOP Sen. Cory Gardner is raising the alarm about Donald Trump’s tariff threat just three days before the president’s proposed penalties against Mexican imports take effect.
The Colorado Republican distributed a letter to his Republican colleagues on Friday afternoon warning “current and proposed tariffs would negate all the economic benefits of tax reform” as Trump prepares to slap a new 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods that could increase to as much as 25 percent. The president has said those levies would go into effect on Monday without border reforms from Mexico aimed at stopping illegal immigration to the United States.
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Facing a tough reelection campaign in a blue state next year, Gardner said that the new tariffs would take money from workers and that “hardworking Americans are unlikely to overlook the hit to their pocket books.”
“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,” Gardner wrote in the letter, obtained by POLITICO. He cites in the missive a Tax Foundation study showing the new tariffs would disproportionately hit low-income Americans and “wipe out” the economic benefits of the GOP’s 2017 tax cut.
Gardner’s missive comes as the GOP broadly frets about the effects the tariffs could have on the American economy and their constituents. Several Republican senators are warning the president they would vote to overturn the new levies, though Gardner has not explicitly said he would go that far.
“I’m hoping this matter gets resolved before we get to a vote,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said.
“We’re just trying to make progress and see if we can’t make it happen without an extra 5 percent, and an extra 5 percent. I think these things are like shattered glass and even the experts who warn about this probably have no idea,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said.
Republicans are informing Trump of their opposition in one-on-one phone conversations. But both Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and John Kennedy (R-La.) said Trump has been unmoved.
And GOP senators are seeking a broader forum for their concerns and hope to meet with Trump before he imposes the tariffs. It’s unclear whether there will be time to do that before the Monday deadline.
“We have a lot of members who have been communicating their concerns about this latest proposal,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said. “I suspect there could be some sort of a stay. But I don’t know.”