Climate concerns persist as panels OK trade deal

Source: By Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 13, 2020

The House easily passed the pact by a wide bipartisan vote last month, and last week the Senate Finance Committee gave it its blessing.

This week the Environment and Public Works Committee is among the several panels that must also sign off on the president’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Senate is expected to easily approve the agreement with wide bipartisan support, but some Democrats will continue pointing out that climate change is missing from the text (E&E Daily, Jan. 8).

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) voted against the USMCA in the Finance Committee and will likely do so again this week in the EPW panel.

On Wednesday, the Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panels will have their turn, with a Foreign Relations vote scheduled Thursday morning.

Under the fast-track process being used for the USMCA, members are unable to make changes to the text.

Democratic supporters point to stronger enforcement and the inclusion of several multilateral environmental agreements as wins.

But even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is among those supporters, Republicans keep accusing her of delaying the pact.

First she pushed for changes before putting it before the House for a vote. Now her decision to hold impeachment articles against President Trump, which delayed the Senate trial, is also pushing back final approval of the USMCA.

Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) slammed Pelosi for the “pointless delay” in transmitting the impeachment articles.

“After House Democrats delayed passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for nearly a year, the speaker’s indecision on impeachment will now keep the trade deal from being ratified for even longer,” he said in a statement. “Farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and all American workers will pay the price.”