House Speaker Nancy Pelosi designated members of her caucus to negotiate with the White House on changes to President Donald Trump’s new North American trade deal, signalling momentum toward an eventual floor vote, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, will lead the group that will negotiate directly with U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer. The members will focus on four areas, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the Oregon Democratic chair of the Trade Subcommittee, who will cover drug-pricing provisions with Illinois Democrat Janice Schakowsky.
Negotiating labour measures will fall to Mike Thompson and Jimmy Gomez, both of California. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon and John Larson of Connecticut will deal with the environmental chapter. Strengthening the enforcement of all these provisions will be handled by Terri Sewell of Alabama and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
A Democratic aide with direct knowledge of the plan confirmed the names.
Democrats have made passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement contingent on certain changes to these provisions, and they have laid out fixes that could satisfy their demands. Democratic staffers have privately blamed the Trump administration for not engaging with their proposed solutions. Administration officials say the Democrats’ demands aren’t specific enough.
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A bipartisan staff delegation went to Mexico City this month for a fact-finding mission to assess the implementation of Mexico’s recently passed labour reform bill.
Trump on Thursday said the deal is “coming along well” and that he hopes it gets approved quickly.
“Everybody wants it. It’s in Congress right now. It’s in the House. And they’re reviewing it. I think that’ll be a very bipartisan bill,” Trump said. “Everybody wants it and hopefully they can act quickly. If we can get support from, really the Democrats in Congress. Nancy Pelosi. They have to put the bill forward.”
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday the country is moving ahead with ratification of the USMCA at a pace that will be “in tandem” with the U.S. ratification.
She said Canada is taking a ‘Goldilocks approach’ to approving the deal: not too fast and not too slow. Freeland declined to comment on whether Canada will be able to ratify before parliament breaks for summer, likely this month.
Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley has often cited Canada’s political calendar to warn that time is running out for the U.S. Congress to approve the pact. U.S. lawmakers in the House and Senate have been vocal about the need to pass the deal before they leave for August recess.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday said he thinks the economic bump from passing the USMCA is being underappreciated, and signalled optimism it will be ratified.
“We’re waiting to see if it can get through Congress,” Kudlow said at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “Speaker Pelosi has been very accommodative thus far. I’m optimistic about that.”