Senate not finished with work on USMCA

Final vote can’t come for at least another week as seven committees now need to sign off on North American trade deal.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

January 9, 2020

2 Min Read

Just when you thought the Senate could vote quickly on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) after successful advancing the bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, the Parliamentarian said additional action is needed before clearing the way for a full vote in the Senate. This adds to an already uncertain timeline due to the House holding on to the impeachment articles, which would require immediate attention if and when those are sent to the Senate.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) held a news conference Thursday with three of the seven chairs from those Senate committees deemed necessary to sign off on USMCA before a vote can be held.

Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jim Risch (R., Ida.) and Environment & Public Works Committee chairman John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) all shared comments in support of USMCA passage and promised quick committee action in the next week. Risch said the Foreign Relations Committee would take up the agreement during a markup on the afternoon of Jan. 16, while Barrasso said the Environment & Public Works Committee would approve USMCA changes in a business meeting on Jan. 14.

Earlier in the week, Grassley had hoped that USMCA could get floor time scheduled ahead of the impeachment articles, possibly as soon as Friday. However, that timeline has now been pushed back, likely until at least the week of Jan. 20.

“As you see, the Senate is not going to dilly-dally around as we wait to see what Speaker [of the House Nancy] Pelosi [D., Cal.] wants to do on impeachment,” Grassley said. “These committees are going to act very quickly next week, so whenever the majority leader wants to bring this up, we’ll be ready to go.”

Grassley said the Parliamentarian’s request that all seven committees need to sign off -- as opposed to just the finance committee -- came as a “complete surprise.”

“I think the Parliamentarian is kind of like god. If they say something’s got to be done, it’s done,” Grassley said, adding that he has great respect for that position.

During her weekly news conference, Pelosi did not offer any new insight into her timeline on when she would send the impeachment articles to the Senate. Grassley said the Senate would have to work immediately on the impeachment articles once they are sent to the Senate.

Pelosi said she continues to wait for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to offer the “rules of engagement” on how the Senate will handle the impeachment. Pelosi added that she’s concerned that the Senate won't be able to offer an impartial trial.

She said USMCA is “sitting over in the Senate with 400 bills we’ve sent over, 275 of them bipartisan.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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