US Senate Gears Up for At Least Five Major Committee Votes on the USMCA

FILE PHOTO: The flags of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo - RC2BTD9A0LQV

The U.S. Senate is slated to have at least five separate committee markups and votes on President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), over the next week.

The USMCA, which was originally signed in November 2018 and then revised in December 2019, has been one of the few issues that U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle agree on. After the House gave an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 385-41 in favor of the USMCA, last month, Senate Republicans and Democrats have followed in suit. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee casted a unified vote of 25-3 in favor of the trade deal, as well.

Under normal circumstances, usually only the Senate Finance Committee votes on a trade deal prior to it reaching the floor. But late last week, the Senate’s parliamentarian came to the determination that at least six other committees have to take part as well, citing the U.S. Trade Act of 1974.

On Tuesday, January 14, the Budget Committee and the Environment Public Works Committee are set to cast votes on the proposal. The following day, both the Commerce Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee will take up the agreement as well, says aides, according to POLITICO. Following in suit, the Foreign Relations Committee is planning to take up the pact on Thursday, January 16.

There is also the potential for a sixth vote from the Appropriations Committee by the end of the week. However, there is not yet an expected date for the panel to markup the trade deal, another aide reports.

Many Senators have recently spoken out about their hopes for swift progress on the USMCA, including Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who hosted a press conference on Thursday, January 9.

“The USMCA is very good for agriculture,” touted Grassley, alongside colleagues, Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Jim Risch (R-Idaho). “This is something that is very good from an economic standpoint, for agriculture, small business, and manufacturing,” he added.

But it’s not just the Senate GOP who are enthusiastic about the prospect of the USMCA, as Senate Democrats also been very outspoken of their approval. Soon after the passage of the trade deal in the House, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), threw their support behind it, as well as Democratic presidential hopefuls, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), just to name a few.

Sen. Warren, who was initially in opposition of USMCA, said on Friday, January 3, that this deal would be a net benefit for the U.S. economy. In an interview with a CBS affiliate in Boston, the Massachusetts Senator stated that “this agreement makes improvements” for workers who “have had the legs taken out from underneath them.”

“It’s going to help open up some markets for farmers, they need that stability,” she went on. “It’s going to help with enforceable labor standards, and that’s going to be useful.”

Despite the highly potent bipartisanship for the USMCA in the Senate, not everybody is on board. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vowed in the December debate that “it is not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico,” and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) called the USMCA an “exercise, through all types of new provisions, to diminish trade.”

With all of the trade deal’s support it is likely to pass a floor vote. However, with impending articles of impeachment, the trade pact could be delayed for weeks, depending on the start date of the Senate impeachment trial.

 

by Louie Gasper for The Yucatan Times

Louie Gasper is a senior at The Evergreen State College in the U.S., majoring in Political Science & Journalism, and is currently studying at the Council on International Educational Exchange’s Yucatán campus. Previously, Louie has interned at C-SPAN. In 2019, he was an intern for NBC News & MSNBC’s “Meet the Press,” the longest-running show in television history. Louie’s interest for politics and journalism stems from his upbringing in the foster care system, where he gained legislative, policy, and storytelling experience by serving in various political roles for child welfare efforts around the U.S.

Louie Gasper I LGasper.Consultant@Gmail.com I
Young Adult Consultant I Capacity Building Center for States



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