The Biggest Nafta Hurdle Now May Be Congress

04/25/2018 The New York Times

NAFTAThe United States is pushing to quickly conclude a revised North American Free Trade Agreement during talks in Washington this week, but another, potentially insurmountable obstacle looms: getting such a deal through Congress.

A revised deal with Canada and Mexico will need approval from the Senate and House, which, under current trade laws, must pass the revamped agreement by a simple majority. But Republicans may balk at some of the provisions, including overhauls to investment rules that help companies invest abroad, while Democrats, who have long criticized the existing deal, may argue that President Trump’s changes do not go far enough.

Congressional approval has become the latest sticking point in the revamp of a trade pact that, after eight months of fractious negotiations, could finally be in reach.

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Obama: 2-3 months for immigration reform

440px-Official_portrait_of_Barack_ObamaPOLITICO, 5/13/14

President Barack Obama laid down a deadline for immigration reform on Tuesday, saying House Republicans have two or three months to start acting on an overhaul before midterm election politics take over.

As he met with more than 40 law enforcement officials, Obama pressed the case that Congress has a “very narrow window” to complete immigration reform this year. He accused a “handful” of House GOP lawmakers of stalling reform but added that a number of Republicans are “realizing that blocking immigration reform is not a good idea.”

“The closer we get to the midterm elections, the harder it is to get things done around here … it’s just very hard right before an election,” Obama said Tuesday. “So we’ve got maybe a window of two, three months to get the ball rolling in the House of Representatives.”

His comments reflect a sense on and off Capitol Hill that lawmakers could still act on immigration reform this year, but that it’s dead unless that happens before the August recess. Obama has previously emphasized the truncated timeframe — for instance, at a Cinco de Mayo reception earlier this month, he urged reformers to mobilize “over the next two months” — but Tuesday’s comments appear to be the firmest yet on a deadline.

The Democratic-led Senate passed a comprehensive bill last June, but House Republican leaders have ruled out that legislation in favor of their own approach. Obama stressed Tuesday that he was not “hell-bent” on making sure every word of the Senate bill, written by a bipartisan group of eight senators, reaches his desk.

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U.S. proposes immigration rules to help high-skilled workers

shutterstock_93480406Reuters, 5/6/14

Newly proposed rules for highly skilled immigrants to the United States, including a provision to allow their spouses to work, are aimed at making it easier to keep those talented science, technology and engineering workers in the country, officials said on Tuesday.

“These individuals are American families in waiting,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. “Many tire of waiting for green cards and leave the country to work for our competition. The fact is we have to do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to do that.”

One of the two proposed regulation changes would allow the spouses of holders of H-1B visas, which are given to workers in fields such as science, technology and engineering, to have jobs in the United States while their spouses’ green card applications are being considered. Spouses of U.S. visaholders currently are not given permission to work.

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who announced the new regulations with Pritzker, said that change could affect as many as 97,000 people in the first year and some 30,000 annually after that.

The other proposed regulation change would give employers a wider range of methods to document that immigrant researchers and professors are among the best in their fields. The regulations would go into effect after a 60-day public comment period.

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Boehner’s mixed messages on immigration reform: Blames fellow Republicans, then Obama

Photo by J Scott Applewhite (AP)The Washington Times, 5/5/14

House Speaker John A. Boehner has emerged as the key figure of immigration reform legislation this year, and he has sent dramatically mixed signals about whether Congress will approve a bill.

At home in Ohio last month, he seemed to mock his fellow House Republicans by telling a local Rotary Club that they think immigration reform is too politically difficult. But returning to Washington last week, Mr. Boehner said the problem wasn’t his troops, but rather a trust deficit with President Obama. Advocates and opponents of immigration reform now say they don’t know where the House speaker stands on the issue as time runs short before November elections.

“He has been very consistent with his inconsistencies on immigration, so nobody knows what to expect or what to believe on this topic,” said Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has long opposed granting legal status to illegal immigrants. He said talk of legalization is encouraging more illegal immigrants to try to enter the U.S.

Mr. Boehner replaces the president as the key figure on immigration reform. Mr. Obama long pledged to tackle the issue during his first year in the White House, and his political stock among Hispanics sank when he failed to follow through.

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House Democrats need 27 signatures to force vote on comprehensive immigration reform bill

shutterstock_93480406The Washington Post, 5/15/14

House Democrats are renewing their push for a vote on a proposed comprehensive immigration reform package, vowing Tuesday to refocus efforts on pressuring Republicans to sign onto a discharge petition that would force a vote on the legislation.

The immigration reform push is the third recent attempt by Republicans to leverage a discharge petition — a procedural tactic that allows the majority of House members to supersede the will of the House leadership and bring a bill to the floor — in an attempt to force a vote on a piece of legislation that they support.

House Democrats say they currently have 191 signatures — all Democrats — on the petition, and that they will recommit to pressure Republican lawmakers who have said previously that they would support comprehensive immigration reform. The petition must get 218 signatures to force a vote on the legislation.

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Democrat Says Immigration Reform Has Stalled Because Of GOP ‘Racism’

Obama-immigration-reformFox News Latino, 4/14/14

A lawmaker who heads a House committee to elect Democrats blamed the country’s failure to pass immigration reform on Republican “racism.” Rep. Steve Israel’s comments are in line with those from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, in which she blamed racial issues for the GOP’s failure to act on comprehensive immigration legislation. Asked about Pelosi’s comments, New York’s Israel said he agreed with her assessment.

“To a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism. And that’s unfortunate,” said Israel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frustration is mounting among the House’s Democratic minority and immigration activists about Republicans’ refusal to act on a far-reaching immigration bill passed by the Senate last year. The Senate bill would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tighten border security.

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Playing politics over chance to honor Cesar Chavez

Migrant California vineyardMercury News, 4/5/14

It’s a shame that Republicans blocked a resolution calling for the Senate to honor the legacy of Chicano icon Cesar Chavez. But though the GOP looks petty and downright stupid for not allowing a purely symbolic commemoration honoring the history-changing labor leader, the Democrats look sort of clueless themselves for not letting the Republicans add their say to the resolution.

According to news reports, Republicans said they would have allowed the resolution to pass if Democrats had accepted additional language recognizing that Chavez supported strict enforcement of immigration laws in order to help protect American workers’ wages. Democrats refused to agree to those additions. “It is an injustice to his memory,” the Washington Times quoted Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who has introduced the resolution eight consecutive years to no avail. He claimed Republicans were trying to mix the immigration debate with a commemorative resolution.

Menendez is right: The Republicans were playing politics — just like the Democrats. Why, exactly, is it an injustice to Chavez’s memory to note that he was against illegal immigration because it undermined the bargaining power of U.S.-born and legal immigrant workers? It’s not like this is news.

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