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A group of moderate House Democrats is warning the White House against sending Congress the new version of NAFTA for a vote this week, saying it would be premature.
President Donald Trump, under existing trade rules, can submit the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement to Congress on Tuesday, and some in the administration have advocated doing so to build pressure for a vote before the House begins a six-week recess on July 26.
The pro-trade New Democrat Coalition asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to hold off because Democrats’ concerns about labor, environment, enforcement and drug provisions in the deal have not yet been resolved.
“While we appreciate your willingness to listen, we have not seen any meaningful progress or tangible proposals from you to address these concerns,” according to a letter signed by Representative Derek Kilmer and others. The letter says the group is looking forward to working with the White House to ensure a vote later this year.
Submitting the USMCA implementing bill would be an attempt to force a House vote within 90 legislative days under Trade Promotion Authority rules. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could turn off those rules with a simple majority vote.
The letter from leaders of the 130-member New Democrat Coalition indicates that the group would support Pelosi in a vote to stop the trade timeline.
Members of the group said their concern stems from rumors that the White House could send the trade bill to Congress on Tuesday.
“We think it would be a mistake to put forward implementing legislation without the support of Democratic leadership“ said Kilmer, a Democrat from Washington state. “This makes getting the UMSCA across the finish line harder rather than easier.“
Kilmer and New York Democrat Gregory Meeks told reporters the group asked Pelosi to demand that the Senate pass and Trump sign a Democratic domestic priority — like an infrastructure bill — before any House vote on the new NAFTA.
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