Lawmakers stifle hopes of new NAFTA this summer



Megan Cassella | Politico

Top lawmakers who have spent months negotiating with the Trump administration over its North American trade agreement are warning that passing the deal by the end of the summer is unlikely, despite renewed pressure.

Since talks with Mexico and Canada wrapped up in early October, U.S. trade officials have pledged to meet Democrats’ demands and win their support for the agreement that President Donald Trump has declared his top legislative priority.

But the number of days left before Congress’ long summer recess is dwindling, and it appears increasingly clear that Democrats will hold fast to their view that more changes are needed. That could push a vote on the House floor at least into the fall, when it risks getting swallowed by the 2020 presidential campaign.

“Not going to happen,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, declared flatly at an event in Washington Thursday when discussing the prospects of a vote in the next few weeks. “I think it’s very unlikely that something is going to happen before the August recess.”

Blumenauer’s remarks came even after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spent two days on Capitol Hill this week appealing publicly to Democrats to move along the bill quickly while assuring them he can make fixes to address their concerns.

The hours of testimony amounted to an olive branch to Democratic lawmakers who, particularly in the House, hold the key to moving the agreement forward. Although they have so far worked closely with Lighthizer and have praised his conciliatory demeanor, patience on both sides appears to be wearing thin.

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