Centrist Democrats warn Trump against forcing vote on new NAFTA

Centrist Democrats warn Trump against forcing vote on new NAFTA
© iStock

Centrist Democrats on Monday warned the Trump administration against attempting to force a congressional vote on an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerPelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House On The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report MORE, leaders of the New Democrat Coalition said it would be a "mistake" for the administration to submit implementing legislation for the agreement, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.


Submitting implementing legislation would start a 90-day countdown for Congress to vote on the measure. Democrats could scuttle the rules to avoid a vote, but doing so would increase pressure on them by putting the deal front and center and magnify a standoff with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE.

"Moving forward with implementing legislation absent the agreement of Democratic leadership would almost certainly be taken as a failure to fulfill the consultation requirements of TPA," the lawmakers wrote in their letter, referring to the fast-track authority for promoting trade deals.

The Trump administration in late May submitted a Statement of Administrative Action, opening the door for sending Congress implementing legislation starting in July.

"We were troubled that you sent up the draft Statement of Administrative Action on May 30 without sufficient consultation, and strongly urge you not to make the same mistake twice," the lawmakers wrote.

Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksCNN: Biden likened Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998 House Democrat urges anti-Trump resistance within administration to come 'out of the shadows' Ten notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.), a co-chair of the New Democrats' trade task force, said the letter was in response to reports that the administration was planning on sending implementing language to Congress on Tuesday.

"That's the threat and that's what we're hearing, that they want to send it out tomorrow," Meeks told reporters Monday.

Democrats say they are in favor of an updated trade deal, but demand stronger enforcement mechanisms, as well as stricter labor and environmental provisions. 

In their letter, the New Democrats said that while Lighthizer had been attentive, "we have not seen any meaningful progress of tangible proposals from you to address these concerns."

The administration had hoped to wrap up the trade deal before the August congressional recess, a prospect that seems highly unlikely given the status of talks. That leaves a short window for passage before the 2020 campaign kicks into high gear.

"As more sand runs through the hourglass and this gets closer to presidential election seasons, the dynamics in our nation's capital get funkier," Rep. Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerHouse extends Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress for another year Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions MORE (Wash.), chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, told reporters.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLouisiana governor wins re-election Dynamic scoring: Forward-thinking budgeting practices to grow our economy Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' MORE (D-Calif.) has argued that 2020 politics would not interfere with advancing the deal if Democrats are able to get their desired changes.

"It's about the substance of the agreement, not the politics at all,” she said ahead of the July 4 recess.