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
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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 TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet 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 ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidySenators opt to drink milk on Senate floor during impeachment trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Trump trade deal faces uncertain Senate timeline MORE (R-La.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency from chopping block Citizens United decision weathers 10 years of controversy Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change 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.

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  • 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.

 

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 GrassleyOvernight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit GOP senator: John Bolton should go public with what he knows GOP senators press IRS on enforcement of electric vehicle tax credit MORE (R-Iowa) is urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims GOP confident of win on witnesses Collins Senate bid threatens to spark GOP rift in Georgia 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 GillibrandIt's time for paid leave for all GOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders allies in new uproar over DNC convention appointments Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Harris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' MORE (Calif.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip MORE (Ore.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTax season could bring more refund confusion Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment MORE (Ore.) voted against Carranza.

Among those not voting were Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip MORE (D-N.J.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders opens up 15-point lead in New Hampshire: Poll Poll: 56 percent of Democrats say billionaire politicians more likely to cater to special interests Support for Biden, Sanders ticks up nationally: poll MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersNew campaign ad goes after Sanders by mentioning heart attack Biden on whether Sanders can unify party as nominee: 'It depends' Steyer rebukes Biden for arguing with supporter he thought was Sanders voter MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden on whether Sanders can unify party as nominee: 'It depends' Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — HHS has no plans to declare emergency over coronavirus | GOP senator calls for travel ban to stop outbreak | Warren releases plan to contain infectious diseases Biden lines up high-profile surrogates to campaign in Iowa MORE (D-Mass.), all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

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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 MnuchinDeficits to average record .3 trillion over next decade: CBO UK to allow Huawei in parts of its 5G network in blow to US The Hill's Morning Report - Report of Bolton tell-all manuscript roils Trump defense 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.