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November 22, 2019 3:30 PM, EST

Uncertainty Over USMCA House Vote This Year Prompts Republican Backlash

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.)House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy by J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

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Inaction on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico has been met with sharp criticism from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, as well as President Donald Trump.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently raised the possibility the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement may not be considered on the floor this year amid concerns several Democrats have expressed about Mexico’s new labor laws. The speaker also has indicated the deal must include enforceability.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Pelosi

“For the American workers, we have to have enforceability. And I think, if we can get to that place, we can have a template for trade agreements that will serve us well in the future negotiations. But just to have rhetorical comment is interesting. It’s pleasant, but it’s not making a difference in the lives of America’s workers,” she told reporters Nov. 21. “If we don’t improve the leverage for America’s workers, we don’t improve the leverage for Mexican workers. And the lower they get paid, the more jobs go to Mexico, the more the migration issue festers, and, again, we haven’t helped America.”

Responding to the speaker’s comments, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, also from California, suggested that absent the new trade deal, the U.S. government could find itself in a disadvantage amid trade talks with China. He also criticized Democrats in the chamber for their focus on the impeachment inquiry of Trump. Pelosi signaled the possibility of scheduling a vote before the Christmas holiday to consider the impeachment.

“I guess they were too busy with the only goal for why they wanted to win the majority — to impeach the president because they can’t do anything else,” McCarthy told reporters during a separate press conference.

If the House cannot pass the USMCA this year, there is no way they’ll be able to claim the people’s business has not taken a backseat to impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell

Pelosi’s counterpart in the Senate, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, again called for the deal to advance. USMCA was signed by the participating nations more than a year ago.

“For nine months, Speaker Pelosi has told the press every couple of weeks that she’ll allow a vote soon. Last winter, she was ‘optimistic.’ Over the summer: ‘We want to pass this bill.’ This autumn: ‘Becoming closer.’ And a couple of weeks ago: ‘I think we are close,’” said the Senate leader. “We’ve had months of this stalling. Now we are one week out from Thanksgiving, and there is still no tangible sign of progress from the House. If the House cannot pass the USMCA this year, there is no way they’ll be able to claim the people’s business has not taken a backseat to impeachment.”

On Nov. 19, Trump explained to his Cabinet the deal remains a priority for the administration. And, the president took issue with Pelosi’s time management during the negotiations.

“We have to get USMCA signed. Nancy Pelosi can’t get it off her desk. Just can’t do it. The Democrats want to have it. The unions want it. The farmers want it. The manufacturers want it. …,” Trump said. “All [Pelosi] wants to do is focus on impeachment, which is just a little pipe dream she’s got. And she can keep playing that game.”

Richard Trumka

Trumka

The head of the AFL-CIO, meanwhile, insisted Trump was off the mark in suggesting Pelosi had yet to approve the USMCA due to union pressure. On social media, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said, “[Pelosi] wants the same thing we do: an enforceable agreement that actually works for workers.”

Freight stakeholders, such as American Trucking Associations, continue to call on Congress to vote on USMCA. ATA President Chris Spear told Congress 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 wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.

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

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