GOP will block Commerce nominee without trade deals 

Senate Republicans have announced they will move to block President Obama's pick to replace Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, unless he sends three free trade agreements to Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., signed by all Senate Republicans, telling him the GOP would withhold any support for a new nominee to replace Locke, who Obama has tapped to become the next U.S. Ambassador to China.

McConnell wants Congress to act on trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, which were negotiated three years ago, saying they would help the struggling economy.

McConnell said he was making the threat, "to give the president the kind of incentive he needs to do what he said he's in favor of."

McConnell, who said he would also move to block all trade-related nominees, accused Obama of holding back on the trade agreements to appease unions, who oppose them.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who was the U.S. trade representative in 2005 and 2006, said enacting the treaties will create 250,000 jobs "using the president's own measures." Not enacting the agreements could cost 380,000 jobs, according to Portman, who came up with the idea for the letter "out of frustration."

Obama has generally supported the free trade pacts but has had difficulty finalizing them. The Colombia deal, for example, has stalled because of the poor treatment of labor unions in the country.

 

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