GOP Sen. Cory Gardner is raising the alarm about President Donald Trump’s tariff threat just three days before the president’s proposed new penalties against Mexican imports take effect.
The Colorado Republican distributed a letter to his 100 colleagues on Friday afternoon warning that “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 says those levies will 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 says that the new tariffs will “take money” away 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. His letter cites a Tax Foundation study showing new tariffs disproportionately hit low-income Americans and that it would “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. A number of 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,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
“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,” agreed Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).
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 personally 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,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “I suspect there could be some sort of a stay. But I don’t know.”