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Senate USMCA vote uncertain

Republican and conservative groups for months called on the U.S. House to put the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement up for a vote, often accusing the Democrats of holding up the trade agreement because of impeachment proceedings.

But now that the agreement has reached the Republican-controlled Senate, the offices of New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are unsure when the measure will come up for a vote.

The trade agreement was not put on the calendar before the beginning of the congressional holiday break. And at least one publication, Politico, said it may not come up until after President Trump’s impeachment trial expected in January.

The House approved the agreement by a 385-41 vote on Dec. 19.

Udall said he would carefully review the details and listen to feedback from his constituents before making a decision on how to vote.

“I am encouraged by House Democrats’ legislation to implement the U.S. Mexico and Canada Agreement, and hope that we can put President Trump’s chaotic and harmful trade policies behind us,” the second-term Democrat said. “Democrats have significantly improved the agreement negotiated by the Trump administration which did not do enough to enforce labor rights and protect the environment.”

Heinrich is also evaluating the deal and consulting with local stakeholders to ensure that the agreement was the best deal possible for New Mexico, Heinrich spokesman Aaron Morales said. He said the senator was cautiously optimistic about the agreement.

The three members of the state’s all-Democratic U.S. House delegation voted in favor of the deal, including Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., who was targeted by the Trump reelection campaign and a group affiliated with House Republican leadership about where she stood on impeachment, citing the lack of action on USMCA. She was among the first Democratic lawmakers calling for a vote in favor of the deal.

“I came to Congress committed to working with anyone to deliver for New Mexico,” Torres Small said after the House vote. “The passage of USMCA is an example of what is possible when we work across party lines to tackle our shared challenges. This legislation is a huge win for New Mexican workers, business owners, agricultural producers, and economy.”

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luj├ín said the renegotiated USMCA marked an improvement over the North America Free Trade agreement it will replace “and the flawed agreement initially put forward by the Trump administration.”

“Democrats worked diligently to strengthen the agreement’s labor and environmental protections, pushed to ensure meaningful enforcement, and fought to remove provisions that would have locked in higher prescription drug prices,” he said. “However, this agreement isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t reverse President Trump’s failed economic policies. Going forward, we must build on this agreement to further strengthen worker protections, combat climate change, and create opportunities for American workers.”

The USMCA is considered an update to NAFTA with provisions to encourage automobile manufacturing in North America, open up the market for some U.S. agricultural products such as dairy and address digital technology issues that were not in existence when NAFTA went into effect in 1994.

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