Ag Policy Blog

Republicans Challenge House Delays on USMCA

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is among those wondering when the House will take up USMCA. (DTN file art)

The prospect of Congress approving the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement sometime in 2019 appears to be eroding away, according to some champions of the trade agreement.

Impeachment will likely consume Congress for the rest of the year, as House Democrats have acknowledged the proceedings will go beyond Thanksgiving and into the Christmas season. That raises a lot more doubts about the House voting on USMCA.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to "express a growing worry" that the House won't act on USMCA this year. "That threatens passage of the trilateral trade deal this Congress, as next year is a presidential election year."

Grassley said House Democrats don't have a sense of urgency about passing the trade deal. "For months now, House Democrats have said they are working on it. That they’re making progress. That they’re optimistic they can get to “yes.” But conspicuously absent from their pronouncements are any mention of a date or timeline. With every passing month, these seem less like good-faith assurances, and more like stalling tactics."

The senator had been patient with House Democrats and took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at her word that the Democrats were working to pass the trade dela. Now, Grassley is more skeptical.

"If USMCA is not brought up for a vote in the House very soon, Democrats will have a price to pay next year when the American people will have a chance to weigh in. There’s little Americans dislike more in politics than zero-sum, oppose-the-other-party politics, no matter the cost," Grassley said.

USMCA has become a focal point for Republicans looking to change the subject from impeachment. White House trade advisor Peter Navarro criticized House Democrats on Wednesday over the delays. President Donald Trump tweeted his complaints on Tuesday. "Can't believe that Nervous Nancy Pelosi isn't moving faster on USMCA. Her people want it, they don't know why she isn't putting it up for a bipartisan vote. Taking too long!" Trump tweeted.

USCMA was signed by the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico at the G20 Summit in Argentina on Nov. 30 of last year. So we're approaching a full year now of lobbying, jockeying and trying to move to congressional action.

FOX Business reported U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met Wednesday with a working group of House Democrats on the legislation. He noted the new Congress has been in session for ten months now.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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