On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees

On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees
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Happy Thursday and welcome back to On The Money, where we’re catching the last legislative train out of the Senate before the impeachment trial begins. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.

Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.com, njagoda@thehill.com and nelis@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane@NJagoda and @NivElis.

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THE BIG DEAL—Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico: The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to implement President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE’s proposed update to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) after a mad dash to clear the measure before impeachment proceedings paralyze the chamber. 

Senators voted 89-10 to pass a bill ratifying Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), sending the measure to the president for his final sign-off. USMCA’s passage marks another milestone for Trump just one day after he cemented a preliminary trade deal with China.

All but one Republican and nine Democrats voted to approve USMCA. Democrats who voted against the agreement cited insufficient improvements to environmental standards.

Read more: Here are the 10 senators who voted against Trump's North American trade deal

The Senate’s approval of USMCA checks off a key promise of Trump’s 2016 campaign that could help strengthen the president’s electoral prospects. I explain why here.

Trump’s NAFTA victory: Trump’s pledge to rip up NAFTA was crucial to his appeal in industrial states that lost thousands of jobs to Mexico under the 1994 pact. 

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While USMCA is more of an update to NAFTA than a replacement, the deal still gives Trump an achievement to tout in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — four swing states that could make or break his reelection.

Bipartisan appeal: USMCA’s passage may also serve as the high-water mark of bipartisanship for Washington, and just days before the Senate begins Trump’s impeachment trial.

  • Many Democrats shared Trump’s skepticism of NAFTA and were eager to team with the president to revise the deal even as they sought to remove him from office.
  • Trump also needed to secure enough Democratic support to clear USMCA through the House, where the GOP holds a minority.

Progressive, moderate Dems rejoice: Democrats who would normally be divided on trade issues had unique reasons for supporting a Republican president’s revision of NAFTA. 

Moderate Democrats in swing districts vulnerable to flip in 2020 can show voters proof of their willingness to work with Trump as their party seeks to remove him from office. And progressives can tout the inclusion of labor enforcement provisions that are unprecedented in modern trade agreements.

Some Republicans grumble, but almost all follow Trump’s lead: Unlike Trump, Republicans largely favored NAFTA and several GOP senators said they felt taken for granted as the White House bent over backwards to secure Democratic votes.

Republican critics of the deal complained that USMCA was rushed through the Senate less than a month after the White House unveiled changes to the agreement. Even so, all but one Republican followed Trump on his signature issue.

What comes next: Trump is expected to sign the deal within days, though it will not take effect until Canada ratifies the agreement. The government of Mexico approved the deal last year and amended its labor laws to comply with stricter standards included in USMCA.

Read more: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Bloomberg hits Sanders supporters in new ad MORE (I-Vt.) touted his Thursday vote against President Trump's North American trade deal that was supported by several of the other candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, earning a rebuke from the Trump campaign.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

Senate Democrats launch investigation into Trump tax law regulations: A group of Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee are pressing the Trump administration over regulations implementing the international provisions of the president's 2017 tax-cut law, seeking information about the extent to which lobbying influenced the rules.

The background: Trump's tax law slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, and included international tax provisions aimed at making the U.S. tax system more competitive while also preventing an erosion of the tax base. 

  • No Democrats voted for the bill because they viewed it as predominantly benefiting wealthy individuals and corporations.
  • A New York Times article published late last month reported that following a corporate lobbying blitz, Treasury Department issued regulations about the international provisions that will allow the companies to have smaller tax bills than had been anticipated under the 2017 law. This article drew concerns from the Democratic senators.

"It now appears that Treasury and the OMB are using the new system’s complexity as a means to give even more tax cuts to corporations through the secretive regulatory process where corporations and their armies of lobbyists exercise undue influence," the senators wrote in a Thursday letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE and acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought.

The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda breaks it down here.

 

Trump formally announces intent to nominate Waller, Shelton to Fed: President Trump on Thursday announced his intent to nominate Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller to be governors of the Federal Reserve Board after senators rejected several of his previous choices for the central bank.

The White House formally announced Trump’s decisions to nominate Shelton and Waller six months after the president declared his intent to appoint them in a July tweet. It is unclear if Trump has submitted the nomination to the Senate, which is the first step toward confirmation.

The GOP-controlled Senate is likely to approve both Shelton and Waller to be Trump’s fourth and fifth additions to the Fed board. I’ll tell you more about them here.

 

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House Democrats unveil $3.35B Puerto Rico aid bill: House Democrats on Thursday released a $3.34 billion emergency supplemental spending bill for Puerto Rico, aimed at funding schools and repairing transportation infrastructure.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration ended a hold on $8 billion in Puerto Rico disaster relief that had been held up for months, despite ongoing recovery needs following devastating hurricanes in 2017.

“However, there are still urgent unmet needs on the island that necessitate additional relief,"  said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyOvernight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Pentagon transferring .8 billion to border wall Democrats should firmly commit to not bring back earmarks MORE (D-N.Y.).

The Hill’s Niv Elis tells us what’s inside the bill here.

 

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Wells Fargo is committing $1 billion in philanthropic giving over the next six years to reduce the cost burden of housing – and help American families move into safe, stable, and affordable homes.

 

GOOD TO KNOW

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • The health insurance industry is donating big to Democrats even amid criticism of the industry and growing calls for “Medicare for All” from the progressive wing of the party.