The House of Representatives passed the new North American trade pact that will replace NAFTA on Thursday, after Democrats held up the bill for over a year while fighting for certain provisions.
Forging the trade deal, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, has been a top priority of President Donald Trump, who was impeached by the House on Wednesday. It passed easily on a 385-41 vote, with 38 Democrats opposing the bill. The agreement now heads to the Senate, where it should be ratified in 2020.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer praised the deal.
“This is the first-ever trade coalition of workers, farmers, Republicans, Democrats, business and agriculture groups, organized labor and much more,” he said in a statement.
The agreement has faced some opposition from Democrats that were seeking more tools to increase enforcement of labor standards. Those tools would help deter American companies from outsourcing more jobs to Mexico, but some lawmakers and unions don’t think the new USMCA goes far enough.
Another major part of the new deal is tighter regulation of automakers. There will be greater enforcement of an auto part’s origin and more cars must be made by workers who make at least $16 per hour. This is to deter automakers from producing more cars in Mexico, where wages are drastically lower.
The trade deal also includes a provision that will deal a major blow to the booming pharmaceutical business.
To satisfy House Democrats, the Trump administration removed a provision in the USMCA deal that would have given the makers of ultra-expensive biologic drugs 10 years of protection from less expensive knockoffs. Democrats opposed what they called a giveaway to the industry that could have locked in inflated prices by stifling competition. Top examples of the injected drugs made from living cells include medications to fight cancer and immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.
“This is one of the first times we’ve actually seen pharma lose,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who leads a subcommittee on trade. “They have a remarkable track record because they are a huge political force. They spend lots of money on lobbying, on advertising, on campaign contributions. But we held firm, and we won on all counts.”
All in all, the USMCA trade deal is a major win for Trump. On top of that, the House vote to pass it came only one day after it voted to impeach the president.
“This vote today is a reminder that, even while the House was working to hold the President accountable for his abuses of office, we were still working hard to deliver on our promises to the American people to focus on economic opportunity,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cheered the deal, despite also leading the movement to impeach Trump, and tried to steer conversation away from the impeachment in a press conference Thursday.
“Anybody care about that? Jobs for the American people?” she asked after being questioned repeatedly about the impeachment proceedings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.