A full U.S. Senate vote on the rewritten North American trade pact will be put off until next week at the earliest, after the deal was referred to multiple committees for review, according to a U.S. Republican aide.
In addition to the Senate Finance Committee, the accord was also referred to six other panels that could take weeks to consider it. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Environment and Public Works; Appropriations; Foreign Relations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and the Budget committees haven’t announced whether they will take time to examine it.
Canada, meanwhile, has said it won’t ratify the deal until its U.S. counterparts do. Canadian Parliament doesn’t resume until Jan. 27.
The final U.S. vote could be delayed further if the House sends the Senate two articles of impeachment it adopted against U.S. President Donald Trump in December. So far, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held up the notice, which would require the Senate trial to begin immediately, saying she’s seen no sign that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will conduct a “fair” trial.
Before Pelosi’s delay in transmitting the articles, McConnell had said a Senate vote on the U.S.-Mexico Canada Agreement would have to wait until after the impeachment trial.
The Senate Finance Committee is meeting Tuesday to approve legislation to implement the bill. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, told reporters that he only learned yesterday of the referral to other panels. Grassley earlier told CNBC that USMCA would "pass the Senate sometime within the next few days or at the most the end of this month."
Because of the referrals and related procedures, a Senate vote this week or early next week is not possible, according to a Senate Republican aide, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss internal deliberations. Passage at the end of next week remains possible though, the aide said.
Approving the NAFTA overhaul would give Trump a powerful win heading in an election year and could ease some of uncertainty weighing on the U.S. economy, strengthening Trump’s message of growth and prosperity for his 2020 campaign. It also allows Democrats from narrowly divided or Republican-leaning districts to show voters they’re working on issues other than impeachment.
The USMCA is projected to have a small effect on the overall U.S. economy, adding just 0.35 percent to GDP after six years according to an official U.S. estimate.