GOP looks ahead to USMCA trade deal, tariffs issues

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BALTIMORE (Gray DC) -- Republicans are turning their attention to the 2020 elections as their annual House GOP retreat in Baltimore, Maryland comes to a close. Washington Bureau Correspondent Alana Austin reports on the major issues looking forward that are heating up on Capitol Hill.

House GOP conference leaders, Reps. Liz Cheney (WY), Kevin McCarthy (CA), and Steve Scalise (LA) host a press conference in Baltimore at their annual party retreat. (Source: GrayDC)

GOP members of Congress are heading back to DC, and turning their attention to trade.

During their annual retreat this week, the GOP was hyping up President Trump's United States Mexico Canada trade agreement, also known as USMCA.

Supporters say US producers would be able to sell in more markets, and the overall economy would gain about 160,000 new jobs.

“Look, this is an important agreement. We got a new and a better NAFTA," said Rep. Steve Scalise (LA), the Republican House Whip. "I’d like to see that brought to the floor as soon as possible.”

Gray TV reached out to Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her take. A spokesman said ‘On USMCA, substance will determine the timing. Democrats are working…to address critical concerns.”

The statement went on to explain Pelosi and other members of the party are concerned about "the provisions related to workers, prescription drug prices, environmental protections and the need for enforcement mechanisms inside the agreement.”

Scalise says it’s important USMCA moves forward now, in light of trade talks with China. Ongoing tariffs are rattling many farmers and investors.

During a press conference in Baltimore, Gray TV Washington News Correspondent Alana Austin asked House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy what comes next.

Alana: “So we wanted to ask if Congress will be discussing any actions to help farmers who are concerned with the ongoing trade discussions with China?”

In his response, McCarthy emphasized how important agriculture is to lawmakers and to the President. He also expressed he thought the disputes with China could be resolved soon.

“I know this discussion is getting closer," McCarthy said. "When you sit and talk to the agriculture community, they know what China has done in the past. They’re supportive of this President to get a good agreement.”

Economic adviser to the President, Larry Kudlow, sees promise in this week’s thawing of tensions between the US and China.

“I spoke to the folks who came to our session and conveyed my optimism about the economy," said Kudlow to a gaggle of reporters following a briefing with GOP House lawmakers at the Baltimore retreat.

In recent days, the US and China delayed further tariffs on certain products. Trade talks are scheduled to pick up in October.

At the conference, Republicans this week also previewed discussions within the party to pitch another round of tax cuts, or "tax cuts 2.0."

GOP leaders say they want to offer more tax relief to middle-class families. Those ideas could come out sometime next year. It’s unclear at this point if their roll-out will include any support from Democrats.

Most Democrats in Congress opposed the 2018 Republican plan and criticized it as benefiting the wealthy and business owners far more than the middle class. Critics also said the tax cuts would add a tremendous amount to the federal deficit, and that financial obligations would eventually fall on the shoulders of working families.

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