(The Hill) — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday said he was prepared to introduce legislation to “set the stage” for U.S. military force in Mexico, saying it was time to “get tough” on the neighboring country after four Americans were kidnapped by armed men this week.
Graham told Fox News host Jesse Watters that he would follow the advice of former President Donald Trump on Mexico policy.
“I would put Mexico on notice,” Graham said. “If you continue to give safe haven to drug dealers, then you are an enemy of the United States.”
Graham added he would “introduce legislation to make certain Mexican drug cartels foreign terrorist organizations under U.S. law and set the stage to use military force if necessary.”
“I would tell the Mexican government if you don’t clean up your act, we’re going to clean it up for you,” the senator said.
It was unclear what type of legislation the GOP lawmaker was suggesting. The Hill has reached out to Graham’s office for clarification.
Military action in Mexico would require an Authorization for Use of Military Force, which would need to pass a divided Congress and then be signed into law by the president. Congress would need a two-thirds majority to override a veto.
Even then, President Joe Biden, as the commander-in-chief, has direct control over the armed forces. The president has committed to working with Mexico to stop the flow of illicit drugs across the border.
A Mexican governor said Tuesday that two of the Americans kidnapped were found dead, while one was wounded and another was unharmed.
The four Americans traveled to Mexico on Friday and were kidnapped in the city of Matamoros after they were caught in a deadly shootout, officials announced.
The group was traveling in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates. U.S. authorities, who believe the Americans were likely mistaken for someone else, had offered a $50,000 reward for their safe return.
The city of Matamoros is dominated by the Gulf drug cartel. Other cities and states in Mexico are under increasing strain from cartel groups vying for power and markets across the country.
Conservatives this week latched onto news of the captured Americans to renew calls for tougher action against Mexico.
Former Trump administration Attorney General William Barr called Mexico a “failed Narcos state” in a Fox News interview, saying its government is corrupt and lacks the “ability to deal with the cartels.”
“We have to deal with this group like we deal[t] with ISIS,” Barr said, referring to the U.S.-designated terrorist group. “We have to use every tool, we have to use economic, we have to use intelligence assets, military assets, and law enforcement and we have to methodically dismantle these groups.”