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November 5, 2019 4:30 PM, EST

Republican Leaders Continue to Press Action on USMCA

Enrique Pena Nieto, Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico's then-president (from lower left), U.S. President Donald Trump, and Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, sign the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Nov. 30, 2018. (Sarah Pabst/Bloomberg News)

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Supporters of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement continue to pressure lawmakers on Capitol Hill to proceed with a vote on the trade deal, which was signed last year.

Vice President Mike Pence became the latest figure in President Donald Trump’s orbit to call on his former colleagues in Congress to cut through the political maelstrom and take up the agreement negotiated with the country’s neighbors to the north and south.

Pence, formerly a representative from Indiana, suggested USMCA “will be the largest trade deal in American history” and implored House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to take it up sooner rather than later.

“The truth of the matter is, the do-nothing Democrats on Capitol Hill are spending all their time on endless investigations and a partisan impeachment. But the people of Virginia deserve better,” Pence said from Louisa, Va., on Nov. 3. “So I came to Virginia to say the time has come for Democrats in Congress to put Virginia jobs and Virginia workers first. The time has come for your congressmen and every Democrat from Virginia to put politics aside and pass the USMCA.”

A few days prior to Pence’s remarks, archived on the White House’s website, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham made a similar argument. She noted via statement: “Instead of focusing on pressing issues that impact real families, like reducing gun violence, passing the USMCA … Democrats are choosing every day to waste time on a sham impeachment.”

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway shared the sentiment on Fox News Sunday on Nov. 3: “Why can’t they vote on USMCA, drug pricing, health care, infrastructure. They’re not doing the people’s business.”

While a vote has yet to be scheduled in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Trump administration’s USMCA is among the big-ticket items seemingly garnering bipartisan backing amid impeachment proceedings.

Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by Kholood Eid/Bloomberg

Pelosi recently expressed optimism about the agreement’s chances of reaching the chamber’s floor before the end of the year. She told reporters that negotiators have demonstrated progress in addressing concerns regarding enforcement assurances. She also emphasized that a priority for her caucus is safeguarding workers.

“It’s not just — old [North American Free Trade Agreement] with sugar on top — to say, ‘Oh, it’s better.’ No. It has to be really better for America’s workers,” Pelosi said Nov. 1. The speaker and her leadership team also defend their legislative record in the 116th Congress.

Responding to criticism from the White House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) recently pointed to House-passed bills having to do with gun safety, equal pay and government reform, which are awaiting consideration in the GOP-led U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, myriad freight stakeholders, such as American Trucking Associations, have urged Congress to take up the USMCA. In a statement over the summer, ATA President Chris Spear reminded lawmakers the trucking industry handles $772.3 billion in goods across the northern and southern borders.

“Trade with these two countries alone supports nearly 90,000 Americans in trucking-related jobs and generates $12.62 billion in revenue for our industry,” Spear said. “We encourage Congress to move forward on ratifying this important agreement so all three nations may continue to share in the benefits that trade creates.”

The new deal is designed to modernize food and agriculture trade, enhance intellectual property protections, address digital trade and advance rules of origin for automobiles and trucks, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

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