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 LighthizerBob LighthizerBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' 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 TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' 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 MeeksUS delegation departs Haiti after reports of gunshots at ex-president's funeral Biden announces delegation to attend Haitian president's funeral Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms 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 KilmerThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Head of House Office of Diversity and Inclusion urges more staff diversity House lawmakers roll out bill to invest 0 million in state and local cybersecurity MORE (Wash.), chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, told reporters.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris 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.