Centrist Democrats warn Trump against forcing vote on new NAFTA

Centrist Democrats warn Trump against forcing vote on new NAFTA
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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 LighthizerChinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead Trump says no discussion of extending deadline in Chinese trade talks 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.

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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 TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade 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 MeeksOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud New York Democrat on Ocasio-Cortez, other progressives: 'Primaries go two ways' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question 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 Democrats delete tweets attacking each other, pledge to unify Berkeley professor warns deepfake technology being 'weaponized' against women Centrist Democrats warn Trump against forcing vote on new NAFTA MORE (Wash.), chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, told reporters.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDHS chief to Pelosi: Emergency border funding 'has already had an impact' The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Trump faces new hit on deficit 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.