Nearly half of the Senate Democrats who voted against the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement share one thing in common: They ran, or are still running, for the 2020 presidential nomination, leaving every vote subject to extra scrutiny for national political implications.
Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders were among the nine Democrats who on Thursday voted against the trade deal. Sanders, who is still in the presidential race, is near the top of many primary polls. The other three have dropped out but may still harbor hopes of a spot on the 2020 ticket as the vice presidential pick or even ambitions for another presidential bid in 2024 or 2028.
While the final version of the agreement included additional measures to protect U.S. labor that were negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and endorsed by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, critics argue those protections are insufficient for American workers. Environmental groups, meanwhile, have universally panned the deal.
“We can do much better than a Trump-led trade deal,” Sanders said during Tuesday’s presidential primary debate in Iowa. Another Democrat still in the race, Elizabeth Warren voted for the deal, arguing that it will “give some relief” to workers and is better than no action at all. Amy Klobuchar also backed it.
The three senators who’ve dropped out of the race are all in their 50s and could have more chances at the White House, and a vote for a trade agreement could backfire if it leads to job losses or, in the case of the new deal, new environmental problems. Joe Biden, a former longtime Delaware senator, has faced criticism from opponents – especially Sanders – for his support of trade agreements, including the USMCA predecessor Nafta.
Harris said she was opposing the deal because of its lack of environmental protections. Gillibrand said she was voting against it because she didn’t think it did enough for the environment, drug prices or New York state’s farmers and producers. Booker has not yet explained his vote.
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