WASHINGTON (AP) -Â Senate Republicans on Monday raised the stakes in their showdown with President Barack Obama overÂ trade policy, saying they will block the confirmation of a new Commerce secretary until the administration submits toÂ Congress three pending freeÂ trade agreements.
The administration says it is ready to submit the trade agreement withÂ South Korea toÂ Congress for ratification, but says it needs a little more time for the other two, withÂ Colombia andÂ Panama. Republicans in both the House andÂ Senate have said that is unacceptable, and they would not act on theÂ South Koreadeal unless all three pacts are submitted as a package.
In the latest move Monday, 44Â Senate Republicans sentÂ Senate Majority LeaderÂ Harry Reid, D-Nev., a letter initiated by Sen.Â Rob Portman ofÂ Ohio saying that until the president submits all three agreements “we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce secretary and any trade-related nominees.”
“This idea is born out of frustration,” said Portman, who served as U.S. trade representative during the George W.Â Bush administration.
Senate Republican leaderÂ Mitch McConnell said ratifying the threeÂ trade agreements would be the quickest and easiest ways to create jobs and he was “perplexed” by the administration’s “lack of willingness to initiate the process.”
The Democratic chairman of theÂ Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus ofÂ Montana, said approving the agreements “will boostÂ U.S. exports, improve our economy and create jobs here at home.” But he said the Republican tactic of blocking nominations “is a diversion from our goal and is simply not the way to ensure their passage.”
All three agreements were signed during the Bush administration, but Obama has taken a go-slow approach to sending them to theÂ Senate. The administration indicated that theÂ South Korea deal was ready after completing further negotiations with the Koreans at the end of last year to open their auto market toÂ U.S. exports.
Sen.Â Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top Republican on theÂ Finance Committee, said his fear was that the administration would “let these two agreements wither on the vine,” adding “we will not allow that to happen.”
To read more, visit:Â http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9LVA9880&show_article=1
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