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 TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report 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 CassidyTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate  Overnight Energy: Democratic lawmakers seek emissions reductions in airline bailout | House Dems warn Trump against oil industry bailout | GOP senators ask Saudis to stabilize oil market GOP senators ask Saudis to stabilize oil market MORE (R-La.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Overnight Energy: Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights | Court sides with tribes in Dakota Access Pipeline case | Trump officials walk away from ethanol court fight Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights 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 GrassleySusan Collins: Firing of intelligence community watchdog 'not warranted' Burr says intelligence watchdog should be 'independent' after inspector general firing Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors MORE (R-Iowa) is urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFlorida Democrat hits administration over small business loan rollout The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Schumer says nation will 'definitely' need new coronavirus relief bill 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 GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Biden hosts potential VP pick Gretchen Whitmer on podcast Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden MORE (Calif.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyWhy being connected really matters for students On The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds Overnight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (Ore.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (Ore.) voted against Carranza.

Among those not voting were Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.J.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden hosts potential VP pick Gretchen Whitmer on podcast Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersWisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor's effort to delay election The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Trump discuss coronavirus response; Wisconsin postpones elections Wisconsin governor postpones Tuesday's election over coronavirus MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds Overnight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air Ex-CFPB director urges agency to 'act immediately' to help consumers during pandemic 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 MnuchinOn The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds Trump officials struggle to get coronavirus-relief loans out the door Kudlow says administration 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds 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.