Senate GOP Threatens To Block New Commerce Secretary Confirmation Until Action On Trade Deals

By Kristina

Mar 14, 2011 7:07pm

UPDATE 3/14/2011 7:07 PM:

In a statement after the GOP's announcement, Baucus said, “Approving these agreements will boost U.S. exports, improve our economy and create jobs here at home, but this tactic is a diversion from our goal and is simply not the way to ensure their passage.  It is time for us to work together to approve these agreements and create jobs for ranchers, farmers and businesses in Montana and across the nation.”

ORIGINAL 3/14/2011 5:36 PM:

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:

Forty-four Senate Republicans today vowed to block the confirmation of a new Commerce Department secretary or any other trade-related nominees until the Obama administration presents lawmakers with legislation for free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

“We all know – both Democrats and Republicans – that the number one issue on the minds of the American people is jobs. And the easiest way and the quickest way to create new jobs for Americans here in America would be to finally ratify the free trade agreements negotiated by the previous administration that have been sitting there dormant for the entire Obama administration,” the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell said at a press conference.

The GOP senators made the threat in a letter sent today to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“As a result of the administration’s failure to act on these agreements, American companies and their workers are losing market share and are being denied valuable business opportunities,” the Republicans said in the letter. “At the same time, Colombia and Panama are continuing to expand their trading partnerships elsewhere, signing bilateral free trade agreements with the European Union, Canada, and other countries which are eager to move into these large markets at the expense of U.S. workers.”

McConnell said he hoped the letter would compel President Obama to act on the trade deals.

“I think it’s a perfectly reasonable way to incentivize him to do what he says he’s already in favor of and maybe a pretty good excuse for his union allies to go forward with all three agreements, something we should have done years ago.”

“It’s just a doggone crying shame that they can’t seem to get it together and bring these agreements to a vote,” added Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

The top Democrat on that panel – Sen. Max Baucus – has previously called on the administration to move forward with the trade pacts. A few weeks ago Baucus traveled to Bogota to emphasize that he sees an urgent need for the trade agreement with Colombia to be approved before the end of the year.

In a statement after the GOP's announcement, Baucus said, “Approving these agreements will boost U.S. exports, improve our economy and create jobs here at home, but this tactic is a diversion from our goal and is simply not the way to ensure their passage.  It is time for us to work together to approve these agreements and create jobs for ranchers, farmers and businesses in Montana and across the nation.”

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