Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor Wednesday to explain why he intends to stand with labor and climate groups in opposition to a major new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada ahead of an expected vote by the Republican-majority upper chamber Thursday to approve the deal.
The floor speech from Sanders (I-Vt.) came after national advocacy groups, including Sunrise Movement and Food & Water Action, thanked the White House hopeful for clearly stating his opposition to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) during Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate.
USMCA, which passed the Democrat-controlled House last month by a 385-41 vote, would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Some critics of President Donald Trump's new deal call it NAFTA 2.0, as Sanders did Wednesday.
Although USMCA is backed by a few labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, Sanders pointed out that others—such as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers—are against it. Major environmental organizations such as the Sunrise Movement, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, and others also have made their opposition clear.
"And it is opposed by the National Family Farm Coalition, which believes it will lock in rules that have devastated family farms and expanded corporate control over agriculture in North America," said Sanders. "I am proud to stand with these labor unions, environmental groups and family farmers against Trump's NAFTA 2.0."
"I not only voted against NAFTA in 1993, but marched against it," added the senator, who has a history of opposing what he sees as flawed corporate-friendly trade deals.
I stand proudly with labor unions, environmental organizations and family farmers against Trump’s NAFTA 2.0.
In my view, we must rewrite our disastrous trade agreements to end the outsourcing of American jobs, combat climate change, and stop the destructive race to the bottom. pic.twitter.com/A9HulGS7fG
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 16, 2020
On the labor front, Sanders referenced U.S. job losses tied to NAFTA and warned that under USMCA, "large, multi-national corporations will still be able to shut down factories in America where workers are paid $28 an hour and move to Mexico where they are paid less than $2 an hour."
The senator also called out Trump for failing to live up to his campaign trail promises to prevent the outsourcing of American jobs.
In terms of the planet, Sanders pointed out that "this agreement does nothing to stop fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron from dumping their waste and pollution into Mexico and destroying the environment. In fact, it makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to bring tar sands oil into the United States through dangerous pipelines like the Keystone XL. It does not even mention the words 'climate change'—the most existential threat facing our planet."
"In my view, we need to rewrite this trade agreement to stop the outsourcing of American jobs, to combat climate change, to protect the environment, and stop the destructive race to the bottom," declared Sanders. "We have got to stop large, profitable corporations that are outsourcing American jobs overseas from receiving lucrative federal contracts."
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"And we have got to repeal Trump's tax giveaway to the wealthy that have provided huge tax breaks to companies that shut down manufacturing plants in the U.S. and move abroad," he added. "Trade is a good thing, but it has got to be fair."
Sanders' remarks on the Senate floor echoed his criticism of the deal during the debate Tuesday, when he said that "I happen to believe... if we do not get our act together in terms of climate change, the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and our children—and our grandchildren will be increasingly unlivable and uninhabitable."
Reporting on Sanders' comments about USMCA for The Nation Wednesday, John Nichols noted that the only other candidate on the stage who agreed with Sanders on NAFTA 2.0 was billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has deemed the climate crisis the number one priority of his presidential campaign.
Bad for workers.
Bad for farmers.
Bad for democracy.
Really, really, really bad for the planet.
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) January 16, 2020
"The other Democratic contenders should have said the same thing," Nichols wrote. "Instead, they preached various gospels of compromise and came down on the side of the USMCA. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar made their excuses for it, as did former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. Former vice president Joe Biden poked at Sanders."
Although members of the House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the agreement, Nichols pointed out that "longtime advocates for fair trade that preserves jobs and the planet opposed USMCA." Those lawmakers included the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.)—as well as the "Squad," Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).
As Sanders put it on Tuesday, "We need some corporate responsibility here." Nichols concurred, writing, "That we do."