Senate vote on Trump's new NAFTA held up by committee review

Senate vote on Trump's new NAFTA held up by committee review
© Greg Nash

The Senate will not be able to approve President TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries MORE’s new North American trade deal for at least another week, said Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (R-Iowa) on Thursday.

Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Trump’s revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement must be approved by several other panels before the full chamber can vote to cement the agreement.

The Finance Committee on Tuesday approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by 25-3 vote. But Grassley said Thursday that at least six other panels must vote on the measure, a process that will stretch until Jan. 16 at the earliest.

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“It was a complete surprise to all of us that the parliamentarian said it should go to seven committees,” Grassley said Thursday, referring to the nonpartisan Senate officer that enforces the chamber’s rules for voting on legislation.

Grassley said the Senate Budget, Environment and Public Works, Commerce, Foreign Relations, and Appropriations committees will hold votes on the measure next week. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee also announced on Wednesday a vote on the measure next week.

Grassley said that the full Senate would likely be able to vote on USMCA after the Foreign Relations Committee holds its vote next Thursday, though it likely wouldn't be approved until the following week.

The chairman added that he’s unsure of how the Senate’s schedule will be affected by the House’s impeachment of Trump. The Senate will be obligated to put most, if not all, legislation on hold and begin an impeachment trial soon after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBloomberg faces criticism for tweet showing altered debate moment Trump knocks Democrats at rally: Bloomberg 'getting pounded' Biden earns endorsement from former House impeachment manager MORE (D-Calif.) sends House-passed articles of impeachment to the upper chamber.

“The Senate’s not going to dilly-dally around while we're waiting to see what Speaker Pelosi wants to do on impeachment,” Grassley said. 

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The Senate is likely to clear the USMCA with ample bipartisan support despite some complaints from conservatives over the process and final provisions of the deal.

A bill to implement the USMCA passed the House in December by a wide bipartisan margin after Democrats secured significant victories in negotiations with the White House. While many Republicans have expressed concerns about the leftward lurch of the agreement, the GOP is eager to finalize Trump’s biggest win on trade policy ahead of the presidential election. 

“It’s been around too long. It’s ready to be acted on,” said Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischLawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Senators condemn UN 'blacklisting' of US companies in Israeli settlements Dairy industry doesn't own the word 'milk' MORE (R-Idaho), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“This is a good thing for America. This needs to get going."