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Letter from Washington

Political Insider

President Trump’s schedule (EDT):

11:45 AM:  Daily intelligence briefing;

  1:00 PM:  Attends the Senate Republican Policy Luncheon; and

  3:15 PM:  Meets with House Republicans on how to pass the U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“Trump, House Republicans Meet to Line Up Support for New NAFTA.”  This morning’s CQ Roll Call article leads with:

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with a number of House Republicans later Tuesday [3:15 PM EDT] as the White House steps up efforts to increase support for the proposed trade agreement to replace NAFTA.

The afternoon meeting comes after Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer courted House Democrats earlier this month with closed-door meetings on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). It would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if simple majorities in the House and Senate approve it. 

Kevin Brady [R-TX], ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, said Monday night that he does not know how many GOP lawmakers have accepted the White House invitation for the session.

However, Brady said he and Vern Buchanan of Florida, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, will discuss their outreach efforts to GOP colleagues to back the proposed trade agreement. Brady said Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., also is part of their drive to solidify Republican votes for the three-way pact.   

“The President is going to meet with us about his trade agenda, specifically about our effort we recently kicked off to support passage of USMCA,” said Brady of Texas. “We’ll work for the next month or so to build support for passage.”

Brady said it’s early in the process, adding that “trade votes are always challenging and require an all-in effort by the White House and an all-in effort by those who believe in more trade.”

Getting the new NAFTA through the House will require the votes of a majority of Republicans and an undetermined number of Democrats. Brady said he is concerned many Democrats may not want to give the president a victory on trade given their opposition to most of his policies.

Democrats have voiced several concerns with the proposed pact including that it doesn’t stop the outsourcing of jobs.

“There’s no good excuse for them not to back it,” Brady said, noting that Lighthizer included labor provisions in the updated NAFTA that Democrats have long sought.

In my opinion, the odds of enacting the USMCA are 67% and will hinge on how much support House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) musters.  Here’s what Mrs. Pelosi had to say about it in during her February 6th press conference:

Q: Two questions on trade, if I could one. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am.

Q: One, I was wondering if you support the bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act to reclaim some of the trade authority for Congress?  And also, I was wondering if – what, if any, are the elements of the USMCA that are concerning to you? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, two questions.

One, first of all, I really haven’t seen that legislation, but I do support reclaiming some of Congress’s – it is Congress’s prerogative.  We have given some of that authority to the President, and there is legislation here that I am familiar with that would give him even more authority, and I don’t support that.

The concerns that we have about, and hopefully they’re resolvable, because I’m optimistic always with the ­– what are we calling it now, U.S., Mexico, Canada – I don’t know if it has an acronym – formally known as NAFTA, but not NAFTA.  The concerns center around workers’ rights, center around the environment, center around prescription drug prices.  Those are some of the subjects, but the overarching issue is enforcement.  You can have the best language on any subject in a bill, but if you don’t have the enforcement provisions very strongly spelled out, not as a sidebar, not as a side letter, but central to the treaty, then there’s a problem.

So, I believe that the Trade Representative has been most accommodating and being available for Members.  Hopefully he’ll come to answer some questions soon.  But we’ve had good rapport with Mr. Lighthizer.  I believe that the committees of jurisdiction, that being the Ways and Means Committee, largely, will be having sessions with Members so that Members can see what is in the legislation, what we’d like to see in the legislation and how we can be supportive.

I have always thought that this was probably one of the easier trade agreements to come to agreement on, but, so far, we’re not there yet.

“Pot Banking Bill Goes to House Markup With Bipartisan Support.”  This morning’s CQ Roll Call article leads with:

Political Insider

About Pete Davis

Pete Davis

Pete Davis advises Wall Street money managers on Washington, DC policy developments that affect the financial markets. Visit his website here daviscapitalinvestmentideas.yolasite.com.

Articles by Pete Davis

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