Lighthizer, House Democrats meet on USMCA as Grassley worries about 'stalling'

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met again Wednesday morning with a House Democratic working group to iron out differences on the USMCA trade deal, congressional sources confirmed.

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The meeting comes as Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, worried that the Democratic-majority House "looks increasingly less likely to act this year" on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was agreed to more than a year ago.

One Democratic congressional source told FOX Business that they are still on the path to "yes."

The Democratic working group staff and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative staff "are constantly working back and forth to resolve outstanding differences,” the source said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, smile as they attend a meeting with President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 11,

Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts leads the working group. Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois lead the drug pricing team, and California Reps. Jimmy Gomez and Mike Thompson head the labor group.

Reps. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon and John Larson of Connecticut tackle environmental issues, and Reps. Terri Sewell of Alabama and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut work on enforcement.

Grassley said Wednesday that if USMCA does not come up for a vote soon, "Democrats will have a price to pay next year" at the ballot box.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, right, and Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., talk before Lighthizer testified before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on U.S.-China trade relations in Longworth Building on Wednesday, February 27,

Democrats saying they are on a path to "yes," but giving no timeline seems like "stalling tactics," according to Grassley.

"Democrats are making the wrong political calculus," Grassley said in remarks on the Senate floor. "President Trump has done his job. He's renegotiated a trade deal that nearly everyone besides a few congressional Democrats can agree is better than its predecessor we know as NAFTA. It's now up to the House of Representatives to do the job and bring this deal to a vote."

Neal told FOX Business that he is planning to visit Ottawa soon to talk with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about USMCA. Last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent a letter to Neal urging Democrats in the House to ratify the deal "as soon as possible."

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and even the Trump administration, believes that if the agreement came up for a vote, it would be ratified in the House.

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