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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 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’s new North American trade deal for at least another week, said Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Loeffler to continue to self-isolate after conflicting COVID-19 test results 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 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.) 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 RischJim Elroy RischWill Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Idaho), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

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