The top two Republicans in Congress confirmed Thursday they will move ahead with providing $12 billion to $15 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a key step to achieving one of President Donald Trump’s major campaign promises.
At the same time, a top aide to President Donald Trump floated the idea of imposing tariffs on Mexican imports to the United States to pay for it. Spicer said Trump wants to impose a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico to the United States. He didn’t offer details.
“Right now our country’s policy is to tax exports and let imports flow freely in, which is ridiculous,” Spicer said, according to the White House pool report. “By doing it that way, we can do $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone. That’s really going to provide the funding.”
Addressing reporters a few hours earlier at the Republican joint retreat in Philadelphia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the money for the wall would not be tied to the 12 regular appropriations bills used to fund the federal government, but would come in the form of a supplemental request. That would help ease the threat of a government shutdown.
Ryan stopped short of saying the money for the wall would be offset.
“As far as the offset, we’re going to wait and see from the administration what their supplemental looks like. I’m not going to get ahead of a policy in a bill that has not been written yet,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “The point is, we’re going to finance the Secure Fence Act.”
It’s unclear whether Republicans have the votes to fund the wall through taxpayer dollars. In the Senate, they would need eight Democrats to join them in order to pass the 60-vote threshold required to avoid a filibuster.
Under the idea that Spicer floated, Mexico would not be paying for the wall. Rather, businesses that import goods from Mexico into the United States would be paying for it. That could have significant economic consequences for American consumers, including increasing the cost of goods imported from Mexico.
The broader trade imbalance would be addressed when Republicans move to overhaul the tax system, Spicer said. “Right now we’re focused on Mexico, but I think as we look comprehensively at our trade situation and countries that we have a deficit for, this is something that the president has been talking about holistically. He’s talked about a border tax.”
McConnell avoided a question about whether the wall could negatively affect the country’s relationship with Mexico. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday said he would no longer meet with Trump on Jan. 31 after the U.S. president again pressed the Mexican government on paying for the wall.
“We intend to address the wall issue ourselves, and the president can deal with his relations with other countries on that issue and other issues,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Standing next to him, Ryan chimed in: “I think we’ll be fine.”