Senate Panel Approves USMCA, Moving It One Step Closer to Ratification

January 8, 2020 by Dan McCue
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. on September 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON – The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday gave its approval to the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, moving it a step closer to ratification.

The 25-3 vote by the committee sent the trade deal, also known simply as USMCA, to the full Senate.

The House approved the agreement in a bipartisan vote.

During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump described the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA, as a killer of American jobs and vowed to repeal and replace it.

Among other things, the new deal includes enhanced protections for auto industry workers, updated digital trade rules, and increased access for U.S. farmers to the Canadian dairy market.

“USMCA will bring much needed certainty and real benefits to America’s farmers, workers and businesses,” Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday at the start of the bill markup.

“In terms of competition, the USMCA boosts American businesses by modernizing our current trade agreement, which predated internet commerce, to protect the flow of digital trade and to better safeguard intellectual property,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. “The agreement also cuts red tape for small exporters by allowing electronic filing of customs forms, an important provision for a small business state like New Hampshire.”

“In addition…the deal cuts costs for small businesses by increasing the share of shipments to Canada and Mexico with duty-free status. Further, the USMCA removes long-standing trade barriers that have prevented dairy farmers in New Hampshire and other states from accessing the Canadian market,” she said.

However, before reaching this point, the agreement was substantially amended by House Democrats to improve enforcement of labor and environmental standards.

That allowed most Democrats in Congress to support the agreement, and helped sway doubters like Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

On Tuesday, Wyden described the last few years as a time of “one trade gut punch after another,” referring to President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

By contrast, he said, the new USMCA would provide “real certainty and predictability to Americans who want to grow things here, who want to make things here … and who want to ship those products around the world.”

In a tweet before the vote he specifically acknowledged the efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying the changes she was able to secure put “American workers first” while implementing “real trade enforcement.”

Like Wyden, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, had been a USMCA skeptic, but ultimately voted in favor of it. 

Brown said, “We know why corporations move jobs overseas – they can pay lower wages and exploit workers.

“The only way to stop that race to the bottom is by raising labor standards in every country we trade with. That’s why Ranking Member Wyden and I authored a completely new way of holding corporations accountable, our Brown-Wyden worker protection provision,” he said. “Brown-Wyden is the first improvement to enforcing the labor standards in our trade agreements since we’ve been negotiating them.

“We still have more work to do to make our trade agreements more pro-worker, but I am voting ‘yes’ for the first time on a trade agreement because, by including Brown-Wyden, Democrats have made this agreement much more pro-worker and set an important precedent that Brown-Wyden must be included in every future trade agreement,” he said.

Three Senate Finance Committee members voted against the deal Tuesday. They were Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Bill Cassidy, R-La.

Justice Ginsburg to Lie in Repose at Supreme Court, Wednesday and Thursday
In The News
Justice Ginsburg to Lie in Repose at Supreme Court, Wednesday and Thursday
September 21, 2020
by Dan McCue

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's casket will arrive in front of the court just before 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and a private ceremony will take place inside the Great Hall of the court shortly thereafter. Following the private ceremony inside, Justice Ginsburg will lie in repose under... Read More

Fortune Magazine Highlights 50 Companies Changing the World
Business
Fortune Magazine Highlights 50 Companies Changing the World
September 21, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

Fortune Magazine announced its annual “Changing the World” list of 50 companies that have tackled society’s most pressing needs and have made a positive and innovative social impact on the world. The 2020 “Changing the World” list marks Fortune’s sixth iteration of the annual list.  According... Read More

Comcast Gives Pennsylvania School Surprise Virtual Learning Boost
Education
Comcast Gives Pennsylvania School Surprise Virtual Learning Boost
September 21, 2020
by Dan McCue

Comcast gave students and teachers in a Pennsylvania school district a big surprise last week -- free Dell Laptops and a year of internet access to support virtual learning and help them overcome the coronavirus pandemic. The city of McKeesport, Pa., was recently ranked the fourth... Read More

Substitute Teachers Are in High Demand for School Districts Trying to Fill Vacancies in a Pandemic
Education
Substitute Teachers Are in High Demand for School Districts Trying to Fill Vacancies in a Pandemic

PHILADELPHIA — Dawn Pittman retired from teaching in 2013 after more than three decades. But Pittman has no plans to give up her passion — even in a pandemic. When Camden resumes in-person learning, possibly in January, she hopes to answer the call as a substitute.... Read More

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Will Drive Voter Turnout. Which Side Does That Help?
2020 Elections
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Will Drive Voter Turnout. Which Side Does That Help?

A presidential contest that had largely been a referendum on President Trump and, in particular, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly broadened into something more: a fight over control of the Supreme Court. Both sides claim their base will be more energized than ever... Read More

Most Americans Say Wait for Election to Replace Ginsburg
Opinion Polls
Most Americans Say Wait for Election to Replace Ginsburg

The majority of Americans, including many Republicans, said the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successor to the U.S. Supreme Court should be left to the winner of the November presidential election, Reuters reported, citing the Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday. A survey conducted Sept. 19-20 after... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top