We were all excited when the Senate Finance Committee passed the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) by a vote of 25-3. This meant the road was clear to send the trade pact to the full Senate. That was the case until the Senate Parliamentarian pulled the reigns and said, “Whoa there! This bill needs to make a few more stops along the way.” Suddenly it was less like being on a commuter train, and more like being on the local train. However, the Senate committee leaders are still committed to getting USMCA through.
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled USMCA couldn’t just escape the Finance Committee and go to the full Senate. It also needed to make stops at Budget, Environment and Public Works, Commerce, Health, Education, Labor, Appropriations, and Foreign Relations. That is a lot more than we originally thought. However, it will probably still be just a matter of procedure. The USMCA seems to have strong bipartisan support to make the trek around the circuit.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) says this was a “complete surprise.” The Senator also said even though there hasn’t been a precedent for this type of maneuver, the Senate will press on and get USMCA through the system.
Senate Commerce Committee Chair Roger Wicker (R-MS) echoed those sentiments. He predicts swift and bipartisan approval in all committees.
Now it becomes an even tighter race against the impending impeachment trial of President Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still holding the Articles of Impeachment, claiming the Senate will not give a fair hearing for the charges. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also vowed to move USMCA as expeditiously as possible, despite the scheduling uncertainty that Pelosi is creating.
However, Leader McConnell hasn’t given a timetable as to when he plans to bring USMCA to the floor. How’s that for uncertainty?