Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks after a luncheon on Capitol Hill January 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expects his chamber to approve a new North American trade deal this week, he said Tuesday.
The Senate still needs to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement after the House passed it last month. The Kentucky Republican thinks Congress can pass the trade pact before the expected start of President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial next week.
“We are, it looks like, going to be able to process the USMCA here in the Senate this week,” McConnell told reporters after the GOP’s weekly policy lunch. “That’ll be good news for the Senate and for the country, and something I think we have broad bipartisan agreement on.”
The timing of the trial on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office had raised questions about the Senate’s ability to pass the trade deal. Impeachment takes precedence over other Senate business. The House is expected to send the articles of impeachment it passed last month to the other side of the Capitol on Wednesday.
Congress is set to approve USMCA about 14 months after the U.S., Mexico and Canada first announced an agreement. Democrats worked with the Trump administration for more than a year to strengthen the deal’s mechanisms for enforcing labor and environmental standards.
Mexico has ratified the deal. Canada has not yet passed it. USMCA does not take effect until all three countries approve it.
The new trade accord makes a handful of key changes to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. It aims to give U.S. farmers better access to Canadian dairy markets, boost wages for autoworkers, discourage companies from outsourcing jobs and modernize digital trade rules.
The agreement is expected to pass easily through the GOP-controlled Senate. Even trade deal skeptics such as Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have said they will back USMCA.
While major business groups support the deal, some labor unions have still withheld their support.
The agreement also divides Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., two of the leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Warren has suggested she will back USMCA, while Sanders opposes it because its job protection mechanisms are not strong enough.
It is unclear if the senators will vote on the trade pact as they campaign in the weeks before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.