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 LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House 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 TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president 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 defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash House Democrats urge financial regulators to defend against Iranian cyberattacks 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 PelosiOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon Hillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' 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.