Conservatives Back Senate Push To Take Alternative Tactic On NAFTA

REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

Conservative organizations in Washington, DC, are supporting an effort by Republican Senators to include a competitiveness chapter in the next iteration of NAFTA.

The organizations, led by Phil Kerpen of American Commitment, wrote President Donald Trump to encourage him Wednesday to “urge inclusion in the competitiveness chapter of the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would require costly new regulations to be individually approved by Congress before they could take effect.”

The organizations signed on to the letter included the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth, Freedom Works, along with a host of other conservative advocacy groups.

Kerpen told TheDC the REINs act “reverses the default” of letting agencies like “EPA, the IRS, and all the other agencies write all the economic rules for the country unless Congress activity stops them” by instead forcing agencies to submit rule changes to Congress for approval.

The push for the act is being spearheaded by Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Cory Gardner, and Steve Daines who recently wrote Trump  that “the current negotiating approach of trying to reestablish trade barriers that would interrupt ongoing commerce would lead directly to lost U.S. exports and American jobs. Instead, we need an approach that focuses on strengthening U.S. competitiveness from within.”

The Senators’ push for the inclusion of the REINs act in NAFTA comes as new director of the national economic council Larry Kudlow predicted Wednesday “I think you’re going to see some positive news on NAFTA and maintaining NAFTA and reforming NAFTA and I think the stock market is going to love that.” Kudlow’s comments could indicate that a final renegotiated deal between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada is close to being struck.

“The timeline is tight,” a senate aide familiar with the process told TheDC, however noting that “the sooner we get this done the better” noting impending midterm elections in the U.S., an upcoming election in Mexico, and upcoming elections in Canada.

Kerpen advocated for the acts inclusion in NAFTA saying  “if we don’t fix the regulatory process with something like the REINS act then all of the remarkable regulator accomplishments of the current administration can be just as easily reversed by the next democratic administration,” also explaining that it eases the legislation’s path forward.

“As a practical matter, the only way you can pass this with 50 votes instead of 60 is if you include it in a trade agreement, so you can include it under fast track,” he continued, adding that if Mexico or Canada disagree with the act that its provisions can be added to the deal as a party specific annex.

The Senate aide noted to TheDC that while a formal whip count has never been conducted for the bill that no Republican senator has come out against it.