U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has floated the idea of declaring a new national emergency in order to impose tariffs on Mexico, Senate Republicans said Tuesday.
According to a report by The Hill news site, senators emerged from a closed-door lunch with officials from the White House and Justice Department. The administration officials said they were discussing the option of declaring an emergency in order to implement the new tariffs.
Last week, Trump announced that he was using the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to impose 5% tariffs on Mexican goods. The act allows presidents to impose import duties during a national emergency, which Trump declared in February to free up funds for his long-promised border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, the administration is now deciding whether to impose a new emergency declaration for the tariffs.
Sen. Mike Rounds said the administration is still "working through" whether the president would need to declare a national emergency in order to continue with the tariffs, The Hill said.
"I think that was somewhat up in the air…I think that's a distinct possibility, but I don't think there's any definitive answer," Sen. Ron Johnson said after emerging from the lunch, according to multiple reports.
It is unclear how the duties will affect a trilateral free trade pact the U.S. agreed to with Canada and Mexico last year but which has yet to be ratified. The Trump administration has been seeking to get it passed in Congress so the North American Free Trade Agreement can be replaced.
The president has pursued a hardline approach to migration, both legal and illegal, since coming to office and has particularly singled out Mexico for what he says is a lack of action to stem migrant flows from Central America, where people are fleeing destitute conditions including rampant poverty and gang violence in the hope of securing asylum in the U.S.
While Democrats have been vocal in their opposition against the act, Republicans are reportedly now conveying their disapproval of such a move.
"A GOP senator who attended the meeting said that roughly a half-dozen senators spoke during the closed-door lunch, none of whom were supportive of new tariffs against Mexico," The Hill said.
By Umar Farooq in Washington