The revised U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the trade deal which the Senate passed Thursday, drew the support of more than 80 percent of Democrats in Congress, handing President Donald Trump a signal bipartisan accomplishment.
Yet perhaps the most surprising vote came in opposition: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who spurned a deal negotiated by his governing partner, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Schumer had kept his position a secret until the roll call was taken, stunning people who had been closely following the trade debate and who immediately began wondering about the political motivations that might have prompted the senator from New York to vote no. The fast-emerging consensus: Schumer is trying to ward off a 2022 primary challenge from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Bronx Democrat who could find herself without a district if New York loses congressional seats in the next round of reapportionment.
“That’s all I thought it was about,” a veteran trade lobbyist told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the powerful minority leader. “He sees AOC over his shoulder at all times, apparently.”
Schumer has long been a trade skeptic; he voted against the original North American Free Trade Agreement as a member of the House in 1993 and opposed former President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2015. Yet the 200-word statement he released Thursday explaining his vote against USMCA cited just one area of complaint: the climate.