USMCA passes on bipartisan vote, Rep. Pocan votes no

By: - December 19, 2019 7:00 pm
USMCA neon sign

USMCA neon sign

The House of Representatives voted today  to ratify a massive trade deal with Mexico and Canada, allowing both House Democrats and the Trump administration to declare a legislative victory on the day after the House voted to impeach the president. 

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect a quarter century ago. Proponents say the “new NAFTA” will grow the economy, support workers, protect the environment and create a more level playing field between the United States and Mexico and Canada. 

The deal passed by a bipartisan vote of 385 to 41, with five members not voting.

Among the yes votes were Wisconsin Representatives Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), Brian Steil (R-Janesville), Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbuelah), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Brookfield), Mike Gallagher (R-De Pere) and Ron Kind (D-La Crosse). 

“For months, my colleagues and I worked to get a trade deal that ensures a level playing field for Wisconsin farmers, workers, and families, keeps jobs in the United States, and makes this deal enforceable,” Kind said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done. This deal is a great example of what can be accomplished when people work across the aisle to get things done and should serve as the template for all future trade agreement negotiations.” 

“I now encourage Senate Majority Leader McConnell to not let this be yet another bipartisan bill to die in the Senate,” Kind added. “Let’s move this deal across the finish line so Wisconsin dairy farmers can finally get access to these new markets.”

Among the “no” votes was Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth).

 “Though this new deal is a definitive improvement from NAFTA, I cannot be confident that this trade deal would correct its core flaws that led to the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of American jobs, as well as serious environmental concerns,” Pocan said in a statement.

Congressman Mark Pocan
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan

“This was not an easy vote,” Pocan added. “The original USMCA proposed by President Trump was an unacceptable handout to pharmaceutical companies as well as failing to protect workers or our planet. Democrats, unions, and progressive advocates stood up to the President, and made this new deal better—including improving labor standards, removing the big, sloppy kiss to Big Pharma and strengthening enforcement mechanisms.”

However, Pocan said, “I cannot be confident that this trade deal would heal the wounds inflicted by NAFTA, including rampant outsourcing of American jobs, the closing of factories and manufacturing facilities across the country, and decades of harm to working and middle-class communities. The deal also fails to take a once in a generation opportunity for North America to take bold, collective action to address the climate crisis that threatens the future of our entire planet.”

Pocan acknowledged that the deal “will provide some certainty to Wisconsin farmers and dairy producers, struggling in our current economy.” But said would not solve all the problems of dairy or agriculture as a whole. 

 “Our goal should be a trade deal that is a model for future deals—not merely a marginal improvement to existing law, with questions about its ultimate effectiveness.”

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is the author of "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" which won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel award from The New Press. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.