Two GOP senators come out against Trump trade nominee

Two GOP senators come out against Trump trade nominee
© Greg Nash

Two Republican senators announced Wednesday that they will oppose Robert Lighthizer, President Trump’s nominee for United States trade representative, ahead of his likely confirmation this week.

Republican Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed GOP lawmaker makes unannounced trip to northeastern Syria Meghan McCain after Gaetz says Trump should pardon Roger Stone: 'Oh come on' MORE (Ariz.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) told Lighthizer in a letter released Wednesday that they’d vote against him because “your confirmation process has failed to reassure us that you understand the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) positive economic benefits to our respective States and the nation as a whole.”

“We fear that you do not have an appreciation for the millions of jobs created by this free trade deal, and that you would not champion agriculture during your time as USTR,” wrote McCain and Sasse.

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McCain and Sasse’s announcement comes a day before the Senate will take a procedural vote on Lighthizer’s nomination. Both Trump and Lighthizer are staunch critics of NAFTA, and the president recently considered pulling the U.S. out of the deal with Canada and Mexico.

The senators said they wouldn't consider supporting Lighthizer until the administration releases detailed plans and timelines on how they'd approach renegotiating NAFTA and other trade agreements.

“Beyond your vocal advocacy for protectionist shifts in our trade policies, the administration’s ongoing, incoherent and inconsistent trade message has compounded our concern,” wrote McCain and Sasse.

Trump pledged to reopen NAFTA for changes, and Lighthizer's confirmation as the administration’s chief trade negotiator is critical for that process. McCain and Sasse cite Trump’s plans to renegotiate NAFTA in their opposition.

“Granting the Trump administration additional legal powers through your confirmation without understanding how you or the administration intend to use those powers would be irresponsible.”

Lighthizer is likely to be confirmed with enough bipartisan support to compensate for McCain and Sasse’s opposition.