Marco Rubio and Rick Scott don’t like tax increases, but they’re willing to support higher prices on Mexican imports for U.S. consumers.
Florida’s Republican senators are backing President Donald Trump’s tariff threat even though most of their Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate expressed their displeasure with the plan in a closed-door meeting this week. Rubio and Scott hope that Mexico will act on what they say is a crisis of Central American migrants traveling across Mexico to the U.S. border.
Last week, Trump announced that a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports would go into effect on June 10 and would end only “if the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that a 5 percent tax on Mexican imports would cost U.S. consumers $17.3 billion across the country and add $376 million to the cost of goods in Florida. Trump also announced that the tariffs would increase 5 percent each month until they reach 25 percent in October, a figure that would cost Florida consumers more than $1.8 billion.
Rubio and Scott say Trump has no other option.
“Everything has been tried, every carrot available has been tried,” Rubio said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “I’m not a tariff fan in terms of a normal course of policy but I know of no other method to get [Mexico’s] attention. There’s a ... meeting at the White House and it happened because of the threat. Something has to be done. ... It’s imperiling our security elsewhere.”
“I don’t like tariffs but I’m going to support the president because I believe Mexico could be a better partner,” Scott said. “They need to figure out how to reduce the number of people who are being apprehended at the border.”
Scott also said the U.S. should impose a tax cut identical to the cost of tariffs, acknowledging that tariffs hurt American consumers.
“It clearly is a tax on them and we clearly ought to reduce taxes by that amount,” Scott said. “Whatever we collect, we collect X dollars in tariffs, we ought to reduce taxes by that amount.”
Their comments stand in contrast to other conservatives like Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, whose state would be most negatively affected by Mexican tariffs. Cruz said the tariffs would amount to a $30 billion tax increase for Texans while Cornyn said Republicans are “holding a gun to our own heads” by considering tariffs, according to The New York Times.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a slew of GOP allies like the Koch brothers blasted the idea of tariffs, and Bush said tariffs “are really bad politics for reelection.”
Tariffs would affect day-to-day consumer goods like beer and avocados, but would also result in higher prices for big expenses like cars and car parts, potentially costing some consumers thousands of dollars.
But Trump is using tariffs to highlight another issue he thinks brightens his reelection prospects in 2020: curtailing immigration at the border.
“The drugs that are coming in. The people that are coming in, they are swamping the border. They are coming up by the millions. Mexico can stop it,” Trump said during a trip to Europe this week. “I think they will stop it. I think they want to do something. I think they want to make a deal and they sent their top people to try to do it.”
Rubio and Scott both said that Mexico can implement measures like building barriers or hiring more border patrol agents to keep out migrants from Central America at its own southern border with Guatemala, which spans 541 miles.
“They need to start using the choke point over there on the border to monitor these trucks and these rail cars that are headed north,” Rubio said. “They need to act on the intelligence we’ll give them with regards to these trafficking networks, and they need to secure some of the portions of the Guatemalan border.”