The new trade pact between the United State, Mexico and Canada moved one step closer to ratification Tuesday after the Senate Finance Committee passed it on a 25-3 vote.
The USMCA will now move to the Senate for a vote later this month. The House of Representatives easily passed the pact at the end of 2019 on a 385-41 bipartisan vote.
The new deal replaces 1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement, and U.S. President Donald Trump has made passing it a main goal of his first term in office. It had been held up by Democrats seeking certain provisions regarding enforcement of labor laws and environmental standards, but now it’s looking good for passage later this year.
Finance Committee Chair Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was excited to see the bill progress through Tuesday’s markup.
“USMCA will bring much needed certainty and real benefits to America’s farmers, workers and businesses,” Grassley said, according to CNBC.
But the bill wasn’t met with unanimous praise in the committee. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Bill Cassidy, R-La. opposed the bill. Toomey thinks the revised USMCA hampers free trade, and Whitehouse doesn’t think the new bill does enough climate-wise.
Democrats vying to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election are also split on the USMCA. Former Vice President Joe Biden is for the deal. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants more Democratic provisions, while Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders completely opposes the deal.
What could hang up the USMCA from passing soon? The dreaded impeachment trial of President Trump. The impeachment has not been sent to the Senate yet after the House passed the articles of impeachment back in December, which could mean a quick route to ratification for the new trade deal.
“If it can be brought up before the impeachment vote, it’d be very important to get this — the sooner it gets done, for the good of the economy, the better,” Grassley said, adding that impeachment would have to be a top priority if it does arrive at the Senate.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a ranking member on the Finance Committee and critic of the USMCA until just recently warned that the trade deal must not be used as a distraction amid the impeachment process.
“The new NAFTA agreement must not be used as a convenient excuse to shut down any other business before the Senate,” Wyden said Tuesday.