Grassley: Senate could take up USMCA in week
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said today that the Senate could take up a bill to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade within a week if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., delays sending the Senate the articles of impeachment, which would take precedent under the Constitution.
“The timing is up to (Senate Majority) Leader (Mitch) McConnell (R-Ky.) and when Speaker Pelosi decides to send over articles of articles of impeachment,” Grassley told rural reporters by telephone before the Senate Finance Committee began a markup session on USMCA at 9:30 a.m. He added that articles of impeachment “have precedent over everything else.”
Grassley also said that the Senate parliamentarian had put “a bit of sand” in the process of approving USMCA by ruling that the Senate Environment and Public Works, Budget and Commerce committees all have jurisdiction over portions of the bill. But Grassley said that those committees may not take it up.
He said that if the committees clear the bill by Friday, the Senate could take it up early next week.
Grassley said it was “regrettable” that bringing up the agreement “took so long.” He noted that Congress had to urge President Donald Trump not to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada to get those countries to consider the new agreement, and that it took the Democrats a year to support it.
He also said that it was “unfortunate” that agreement was reached the same week that the House passed articles of impeachment, but said “we have to take what is before us.”
Grassley said he expects USMCA to receive “nearly unanimous support” in the finance committee and in the full Senate.
He also spoke positively about the agreement, noting that it would “get” wheat, eggs, poultry and dairy products into Canada as well as helping U.S. autoworkers.
Grassley also praised U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, saying he “did not compromise much considering what the Democrats wanted to do,” and “did a marvelous job of getting it through the House without much harm to it.”
USMCA, Grassley said, “is a big win” for Trump, and noted that its approval is important to Iowa to know that “they have a president looking out for them.”
At the hearing, Grassley spoke positively about the agreement in an opening statement and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., followed him in noting that it is good for farmers and praising Lighthizer.
But Wyden also noted that the articles of impeachment are expected and said “The new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) agreement must not be used as a convenient excuse to shut down any other business before the Senate.”
The business meeting is continuing, with committee members from both parties making statements in favor of the agreement.
Most Democrats added, however, that they consider Trump’s trade policy statements to be erratic and that only changes to the agreement that Democrats insisted on will improve the lot of American workers and provide environmental protections.