Grassley urges WH to be 'patient' on North America trade deal


By Erica Werner & Seung Min Kim, The Washington Post

via The Daily Nonpareil (IA) - Aug 4, 2019


WASHINGTON — Congress’ August recess could prove crucial for President Donald Trump’s revamped North America trade deal, as behind-the-scenes talks reach a critical juncture and supporters ramp up pressure on key Democrats in hopes of a House vote in early fall.


The U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, a rewrite of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and a key Trump priority, was left in limbo as lawmakers adjourned Thursday for their long summer break. Months of secretive talks between House Democrats and administration officials had produced no agreement.


But despite the increasingly poisonous relationship between Trump and Democrats on other fronts, the trade deal is a singular issue where a bipartisan agreement seems possible that both sides could claim as a win. If it is going to happen, though, it has to be as soon as possible after lawmakers return to the Capitol in early September, before the 2020 presidential campaign erases all chances for bipartisan policymaking.


“There’s not a deadline, but the closer we get to the next election, the harder it is,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday. A vote on the deal must occur in the House before a Senate vote, essentially giving Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., veto power over whether it can move forward.


“Speaker Pelosi and I am united in that we believe you need strong and enforceable labor protections in this bill,” said Schumer, highlighting his demands for environmental and labor protections and changes related to prescription drugs. “If that doesn’t happen, there won’t be a bill, plain and simple.”


Democrats have been making similar demands for months, but behind the scenes, they say, differences are narrowing after meetings between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and House Democratic working groups. Talks will continue throughout August and have reached a decision-making stage after Democrats laid out their demands in some detail and await a response from Lighthizer.


The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative declined to offer comment, but a senior administration official said of Democrats’ demands: “I think there are solutions to all of the concerns that have been raised.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks.


As that work proceeds, Vice President Mike Pence is taking the lead for the administration in trying to increase pressure on Democrats in manufacturing regions, red states and elsewhere. He has appeared at around two dozen events with manufacturers, farmers...