House Democrats indicated this week they expect to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) this year, but not before securing substantial changes that would boost enforcement of labor provisions, among other issues.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats discussed enforcement, labor, environment and drug prices in a June 26 meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. During a meeting attended by NGFA the previous day, Pelosi indicated that she believed it is possible that changes to USMCA’s text could be “surgical” and apply only to the enforcement aspects of the accord.
“We want to pass this bill,” Pelosi told reporters. “As much as possible we are trying to keep the discussion on track.”
Earlier this week, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who chairs the trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, said it is unlikely the House will vote on USMCA implementing legislation before Congress begins its August recess.
“That’s not to say we can’t move with dispatch and make progress and be able to do something in the fall,” he said during a Washington International Trade Association meeting. “This isn’t going to the floor until I think there is a higher degree of confidence that it reflects the concerns and priorities not just of our members but what America is concerned about.”
He also suggested House Democrats could “strategically” reopen the USMCA accord to revise certain sections.
He conveyed the same sentiment in media interviews later in the week. “It won’t happen,” Blumenauer said in one such interview on June 27. “There’s too much to do and I just can’t envision any way that would happen….[N]othing that’s happened makes me feel that that’s not the case. I just don’t see being able to rush this through before we recess for the summer break.”
Blumenauer also is one of the nine House Democrats serving on a working group appointed by Pelosi to negotiate changes to USMCA with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Blumenauer said he had met with Lighthizer when the trade ambassador met with the working group on June 25 – when he said most of the discussion focused on outlining their concerns over access to reasonably priced medications – and with the Democratic caucus the next day. He said he wants the Democratic working group to meet weekly until an agreement is reached. Blumenauer said he also will be leading a congressional delegation to Mexico in July to examine changes enacted to its labor standards.
At a June 25 rally on Capitol Hill, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and several House Democrats said Congress should not vote on USMCA until changes are made to its labor and pharmaceutical provisions. Union leaders delivered petitions to lawmakers advocating a delay until revisions are made to the trade deal.