Cornyn’s ‘expectation’: Senate to vote Thursday on new North American trade deal

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said Wednesday that he expects the Senate to vote Thursday afternoon on the new North American trade deal that has already passed the U.S. House.

“My expectation is that by tomorrow afternoon, we will pass the USMCA out of the Senate and send it on to the president for his signature,” Cornyn told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

The United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement is expected to have the support of the majority of senators and will be an updated version of NAFTA, the trade deal implemented in 1994 that transformed the Rio Grande Valley. The impending impeachment trial in the Senate was expected to potentially provide a challenge in passing the new trade deal.

But with the Senate impeachment trial beginning Tuesday, senators may sneak in a vote before their legislative attention is focused squarely on the trial.

“Fortunately, during the lull in the action, we look like we’re going to be able to finally act on the USMCA,” Cornyn said.

The bill’s passage would be welcome news to the trade industry in South Texas, which has lauded the legislation. Officials from the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the largest commercial truck crossing in the area, have said they eagerly await the agreement’s implementation following some uncertainty about the future of the deal.

Truck traffic at the bridge in Pharr is a large economic engine for the city. In December, 95,194 trucks crossed the bridge, including 46,218 southbound and 48,976 northbound.

International Bank of Commerce also praised the deal, President Dennis E. Nixon said.

“USMCA delivers an agreement that will create more jobs, modernize trade in the digital age and foster innovation,” Nixon said in a statement in December.