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On The Money: Senate panel advances Trump's new NAFTA despite GOP gripes | Trade deficit falls to three-year low | Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief

On The Money: Senate panel advances Trump's new NAFTA despite GOP gripes | Trade deficit falls to three-year low | Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief
© Anna Moneymaker

Happy Tuesday and welcome back to On The Money, where we hope you're as happy in 2020 as Elon Musk was today. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL--Senate panel advances Trump's new NAFTA despite GOP gripes: A Senate panel on Tuesday advanced President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE's revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) almost unanimously despite grumbling from conservative lawmakers.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 25-3 to send to the full chamber a bill implementing Trump's proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Bottom line MORE (R-La.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (D-R.I.) opposed the measure, which passed the House last month with broad bipartisan support.

  • The GOP-controlled Senate is expected to finalize the USMCA within weeks, cementing Trump's most substantial victory on trade policy.

 

I explain here why some Republicans are so deflated about what Trump sees as a massive victory.

  • Most Senate Republicans are eager to hand Trump a win on one of his top priorities ahead of the 2020 elections, despite their preferences for looser trade restrictions.
  • Trump was able to secure the support of Democrats and some labor unions after agreeing to several major concessions. Changes that won over progressives included tougher labor law enforcement, stricter environmental standards and stripping protections for certain high-cost pharmaceuticals.

 

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But several GOP senators complained Tuesday about being taken for granted.

  • "We've slapped on all of these provisions designed to restrict trade and investment, we'll get no economic growth out of this. And we, the Senate and the Senate Finance Committee, are allowing ourselves to be marginalized." -- Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
  • "The House got a lot of stuff because the House actually had the ability to say, 'We're not going to do this unless we get our demands met.' We've not had that ability." – Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

 

Also: 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) is urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's climate plans can cut emissions and also be good politics Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE (R-Ky.) to take quick action on USMCA before an impeachment trial begins in the upper chamber.

 

LEADING THE DAY

Trade deficit falls to three-year low of $43.1 billion: The U.S. trade deficit, a longtime irritant to President Trump, fell to a three-year low of $43.1 billion in November, according to new Commerce Department data released Tuesday.

The 8.2 percent decline in the trade deficit followed a $2.5 billion drop in imports, paired with a $1.4 billion increase in exports from October.

The latest figures suggest an overall deficit drop in 2019, which saw a slight $0.1 billion drop in exports in the first 11 months while imports dropped $3.9 billion as compared to the same period in 2018.

  • The drop will be welcome news to President Trump, who has railed against the trade deficit as a sign of American weakness. 
  • While deficits are subtracted from calculations of gross domestic product, economists say they are not inherently good or bad for the economy's well-being. 
  • Some worry that the decrease in imports could indicate softness in domestic demand, a key driver of growth.

The Hill's Niv Elis breaks down the data here.

 

Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief: The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jovita Carranza to head President Trump's Small Business Administration (SBA). 

Carranza, a Treasury Department official who served as deputy SBA administrator during George W. Bush's presidency, was confirmed in a broad bipartisan 88-5 vote and has widespread support from the business community. 

Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisKamala Harris calls nurse on Thanksgiving to express gratitude in fight against COVID-19 Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (Calif.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT 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 House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySupreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising Trump supporters demonstrate across the country following Biden-Harris win Merkley wins reelection in Oregon Senate race MORE (Ore.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (Ore.) voted against Carranza.

Among those not voting were Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks MORE (D-Mass.), all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

Carranza will become the highest-ranking Latina official in Trump's Cabinet, and the vote gives the close ally of Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinBiden's Treasury pick will have lengthy to-do list on taxes On The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach MORE a prominent role in defending the administration's economic policies in the election year. Here's more from The Hill's Naomi Jagoda.

 

GOOD TO KNOW

  • Juicy tax breaks intended to lure in companies and boost local economies may not be worth it, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Boeing has settled with American Airlines in a confidential agreement to compensate the carrier for losses suffered after it was forced to ground the 737 Max last year.