Democrats secure fast-track to the floor for Canada-Mexico trade deal

Democrats secure fast-track to the floor for Canada-Mexico trade deal
© Greg Nash

House Democrats on Monday secured a speedy route to a floor vote this week on a sweeping trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

In a little-noticed motion offered in a near-empty chamber Monday afternoon, Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations Disagreements are a part of our process OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina | Democrats probe Park Service involvement in GOP convention | Sanders attacks 'corporate welfare' to coal industry included in relief package MORE (D-Minn.) asked for unanimous consent to adopt the rules governing debate on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). There were no objections, meaning the historic trade package can come to the floor without passing first through the House Rules Committee, which typically decides those guidelines, particularly for legislation as monumental as the USMCA.

The trade agreement is scheduled to be marked up by the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, and move to the floor for a vote of the full House on Thursday.

Under McCollum's motion, the package will receive two hours of debate on the floor, divided equally between the two parties. No amendments will be considered.

The deal is the result of months of hard-fought talks between Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) and U.S Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE. It will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, making good on a central campaign promise of President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE, who has bashed NAFTA as a job-killer for the United States.

Pelosi signed off on the deal last week after securing enforcement provisions governing labor and environmental protections in all three countries. She has called it a "victory for America's workers" and a "template" for future trade pacts with countries around the globe.

The decision to expedite the USMCA's route to the floor reflects the broad bipartisan support the accord enjoys after receiving the blessings of both Trump and Pelosi. The path was paved further by the endorsement from the AFL-CIO, the largest labor group in the U.S. and a forceful critic of the 1994 NAFTA deal.

Still, a number of liberals in the Democratic Caucus have remained critical, wary that the new enforcement mechanisms are vague and insufficient.

The agreement hit a late snag over the weekend, when Mexican officials balked at provisions related to U.S. labor officials operating out of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. The dispute was ironed out in a round of last-minute talks on Monday, when Jesús Seade, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, announced he is “very satisfied” with restrictions governing the U.S. attaches.

Thursday's expected USMCA vote will cap a busy week in the House, which is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a sweeping government funding package, and Wednesday on two articles of impeachment against Trump for his dealings with Ukraine.

After moving through the House, the USMCA will head to the Senate, which is expected to pass the package early next year.