Government

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst worry time running out for new North America trade deal

Farmers, others need U.S.-Mexico-Canada pact, they say

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (left) and Tom Vilsack, a Democrat who was Iowa governor and then U.S. secretary of agriculture, speak in August at a Des Moines dairy about the importance of Congress passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) yet this year. Grassley and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on Wednesday warned time was running out for congressional action this year. (Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (left) and Tom Vilsack, a Democrat who was Iowa governor and then U.S. secretary of agriculture, speak in August at a Des Moines dairy about the importance of Congress passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) yet this year. Grassley and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on Wednesday warned time was running out for congressional action this year. (Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

It appears the White House and Democratic-controlled U.S. House are “very, very close to a deal” on the USMCA trade deal, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, but unless they reach agreement this week, he is concerned it won’t be ratified this year.

“That means we enter 2020 with a great deal of uncertainty for farmers” as well as businesses and others who would benefit from the trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada, Grassley told reporters Wednesday.

The Iowa Republican believes the trade agreement would create thousands of jobs and help raise wages for Americans.

Grassley, who expects the Senate will not be in session after Dec. 19, said the “window of opportunity is running out on USMCA for this year.” With the House spending time on impeachment, “will they have time to bring it up?”

Add to that, he said, the Iowa caucuses are within sight, which will kick off the presidential season, and “things are difficult to get done in the presidential year.”

“So I urge House Democrats to be reasonable and finally act,” Grassley said. “If they don’t get it done this week, then I think the chances of getting it done this year are bad.”

Grassley’s counterpart, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, took to the Senate floor Wednesday with sharper criticism of Democrats’ inaction on the USMCA, which representatives of the three nations signed more than a year ago.

“It’s unthinkable that USMCA is not already ratified,” Ernst said. It’s been written, agreed to and signed by the Iowa’s two largest trader partners, she said.

“All we have to do is vote to pass it. It really is that simple.”

In her annual 99-county tour, Ernst said no one urged her to delay passage of the USMCA.

“They want it now,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly has said that her caucus would reach a consensus on the trade deal. Last week, she said the House was “within range of a substantially improved agreement for America’s workers.”

Pelosi and Democrats guaranteed the American people they could “walk and chew gum at same time,” Ernst said, but it “there’s not much walking and ... the gum seems to be stuck under some park bench.”

Democrats are delaying action because they don’t want to give President Donald Trump a victory, she said.

“It’s a sad reality that once again Democrats would choose to put their own politics ahead of what’s good for the American people,” Ernst said.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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