NAFTA update
The U.S. Capitol glows at dusk. (Pablo Angulo)

WASHINGTON — All seven members of Oklahoma’s delegation announced their unanimous support for ratifying a trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico last week, urging leaders in the House of Representatives to bring the agreement to a vote before the end of the year.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was signed last year, would modernize the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

The bipartisan USMCA would “support mutually beneficial trade, leading to freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America,” according to the office’s fact sheet. Members of the Oklahoma delegation said passing the agreement in the House would also directly benefit trade in Oklahoma.

“A vote on the USMCA agreement would demonstrate to Oklahomans and the American people that we’re serious about updating NAFTA to reflect the 21st-century interests of American farmers, ranchers, producers, manufacturers, and more,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).

There are more than 112,000 jobs in Oklahoma that depend on trade with Mexico and Canada, said Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK1). He said the USMCA is expected to create more than 176,000 new jobs and would stimulate over $68 billion in new economic growth.

“This kind of growth in our economy is beyond political spats and has overwhelming, bipartisan support in Congress. We cannot stall this deal any longer,” said Hern.

On Monday morning, national news outlets reported that the White House and Democrats were close to a deal that would bring the agreement to a vote.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and manufacturers need the trade certainty that this agreement would provide.

“We can support them through new, fair trade policies if Democrats would stop playing partisan politics. Speaker Pelosi needs to bring the USMCA up for a vote before the end of the year—no excuses,” said Inhofe.

Many Republicans, including those in the Oklahoma delegation, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA12) is purposely withholding the agreement from being brought up for a vote, as it would be seen as a major economic accomplishment for Trump amid the ongoing impeachment process.

“Speaker Pelosi has claimed for months that she’s on ‘a path to yes,’ but she has refused to give the American people this win because she doesn’t want to give President Trump a win,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK2). “Every day we delay passage is another day the American people miss out on the benefits of the deal.”

The U.S. trades with Mexico and Canada more than any other country in the world, said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4), and each day the measure is not voted on is another day that Americans miss out on its benefits.

Canada is Oklahoma’s largest trade partner, and the state exported $1.6 billion in goods to Canada in 2018, representing 27 percent of the state’s total goods exports, according to the U.S. trade representative office. Mexico was second to Canada, with Oklahoma exporting $783 million in goods to Mexico.

“Oklahoma’s manufacturers and agriculture producers know all too well the added value of exporting products into the world market and ensuring a level playing field only heightens our state’s prosperity,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK3). “The clock is ticking, and businesses and agriculture producers across Oklahoma are waiting for Congress to act.”

Oklahoma Democrat Kendra Horn (D-OK5) said the next step towards passing the USMCA is to complete a bipartisan agreement between the U.S. Trade Representative and the group negotiating the final changes to the agreement.

“Finding common ground takes hard work, and we won’t cross the finish line with finger-pointing or partisan politics,” said Horn.

The last day to vote on the USMCA before the end of the year is Dec. 20.

House members pass TRACED Act

On Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would protect Americans from unwanted, illegal robocalls.

The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act passed 417-3, with all five Oklahomans in the House voting to support the measure.

The TRACED Act would require phone carriers to develop call authentication technologies, ensuring that calls are coming from real numbers, without charging customers any additional cost.

The bill would also require the Federal Communications Commission to file annual reports to Congress on the progress of these enforcements.

The bill will now move to the Senate where a vote is expected to be taken before the December recess.

Oklahomans respond to decision to draft impeachment articles

Pelosi announced on Thursday that the House of Representatives will begin drafting articles of impeachment against Trump, increasing the possibility that an impeachment vote will be taken before Dec. 20.

Shortly after the announcement, House Republicans from Oklahoma expressed their discontent with the decision.

“While the details of potential articles are still unclear and the timing of a vote is uncertain, it is now evident that a vote in the House is inevitable,” said Cole. “Based on what I have seen so far, I do not think the House has grounds to move forward on this serious matter. And as things stand today, I will certainly be voting against impeachment when it comes to the floor of the House.”

Lucas and Mullin reiterated that the decision to draft impeachment articles was based on partisan animosity.

Horn said she was reserving judgement from the announcement until she has all the facts and has reviewed any articles that will be brought before the House for a vote.

“I approach every vote and issue with the thoughtfulness, deliberation, and fairness that Oklahomans deserve,” said Horn.

Hern, however, said that those waiting for more information before voting on impeachment will no longer have the opportunity to uncover those facts.

“To any Member of Congress saying they want to wait for the facts or need more information before committing to impeach, today’s announcement ensures that you will never get those facts or any new information,” said Hern. “Pelosi made it clear that she has all the information she needs. This rushed process will not uncover anything new.”