President Trump’s threats to saddle Mexican imports with tariffs come June 10 is having a predictable effect, as officials howl and respond with their own threats of retaliation.
It’s not being greeted too warmly down in Mexico either.
“Senate Republicans are tariff weary,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who predicted that the Senate would override a presidential veto of a Congressional blocking of the tariffs.
Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) threatened to hold up the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement if Trump followed through on the tariffs. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas called the tariffs “extremely counterproductive” and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner said they are “a bad idea, plain and simple.”
Senator John Thune (R-SD) managed to say, apparently with a straight face, “I suspect Congress is going to want to be heard from, for sure.”
Senator Thune said this about a Congress, mostly notably its Republican contingent, that would prefer to remain quiet as a church mouse most of the time, as long as it can keep raking in donor cash and keep getting re-elected.
Congress has long ago ceded whole swatches of its Constitutional authority to the Executive branch, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time. (“Not our job, so don’t blame us.” Get it? See “What Is Congress for, Anyway?“) Nowadays, that idea doesn’t seem so hot. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), after saying that his state’s corn farmers were not going to be happy, lamented, “I think it is very fair to say that Congress should take a look at the authority they have sent to the executive branch, regardless of who the president is.”
Some U.S. business leaders chimed in as well. Chipotle Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung risked sending shock waves through Wall Street when he declared that tariffs would force his fast food chain to enact price increases by as much as “a nickel a burrito.” Ouch.
Meanwhile, south of the border down Mexico way, officials are almost as angry. The Mexican economy depends heavily on exports to the U.S. and they know it, but most were trying to put on a brave front.
Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez said the tariffs would harm consumers and trade-related jobs in the U.S. as well as Mexico. She also threatened, ominously, that her country would seek “redress through multilateral organizations.”
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his country was doing all it could and wouldn’t and couldn’t militarize its southern border to appease the U.S. This leader of a corrupt and failed state largely controlled by violent drug cartels, where the murder rate is sky high and rising, vowed that “human rights must not be violated.”
But it was Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Martha Barcena Coqui, who actually gets the said-with-a-straight-face award. She declared that there was a limit to the Mexicans’ flexibility, and “the limit is Mexican dignity.”