Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was looking at President Donald Trump’s planned 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods with all the enthusiasm of someone preparing to watch a head-on collision in his front yard.
After all, Senate Republicans had made it clear they did not approve of Trump’s plan and might well put their foot down by using their legislative clout to block any tariffs.
Then came Trump’s announcement Friday of a deal with Mexico aimed at reducing the flow of migrants who use that country as a stepping stone to enter the U.S.
On Tuesday, McConnell acknowledged that Trump achieved more by brinkmanship that anyone had expected.
“I think the cold, hard reality is, even though almost none of my members were enthusiastic about the prospect of tariffs, you have to give the president credit — it worked,” he said Tuesday in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“The president deserves applause — not condemnation — for the outcome, which has a good chance of solving this crisis at the border,” McConnell said.
The Kentucky Republican said Trump’s tactics “clearly got the government’s attention down there,” Politico reported, leading to an agreement on the thorny subject of immigration.
McConnell bemoaned the criticism directed at Trump.
“They just can’t let the president have a win,” McConnell said.
McConnell was not alone. Some GOP senators, like Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, praised the agreement.
Iowans are breathing a sigh of relief: Mexico has stepped up to help us address the humanitarian crisis at our southern border, and we won’t feel the pinch from new tariffs with one of our biggest trading partners. My full statement: https://t.co/GPah2HwXAT
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) June 8, 2019
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, meanwhile, said the proof will come through what Mexico actually does, The Hill reported.
“The real test is whether that 144,000 number from May, whether it goes down. That will be the best evidence,” he said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection took that many migrants into custody in May, a 32 percent increase from April.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a Monday news conference the tariff threat was the catalyst that led to fruitful discussions with Mexico, according to USA Today.
Pompeo said the deal with Mexico was “diplomacy at its finest” and that it “wouldn’t have happened” without tariffs hanging over Mexico’s head.
He also pushed back against media reports that downplayed the new deal and claimed its core points were agreed upon in December.
“I’ve seen some reporting that says that these countless hours were nothing, that they amounted to a waste of time,” Pompeo said
“The scale, the effort, the commitment here is very different from what we were able to achieve back in December,” he added.
Pompeo said the U.S. can now vastly increase the number of migrants sent back to Mexico, the country through which most of them pass en route from Central America.
“We now have the capacity to do this full throttle … in a way that will make a fundamental difference in the calculus” for migrants who think they can enter the U.S., he said.
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