Senate Republicans are threatening to hold up White House nominations unless the Senate passes trade deals with Columbia and Panama, but GOP moderates from New England aren’t of the same mind on the matter.
Forty-four Republicans signed a letter today telling Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada that they would block the administration’s nominees for commerce secretary and other positions until the Senate takes up the trade pacts.
Scott Brown of Massachusetts was among those signing the letter, but Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the two Senators from Maine who have increasingly voted with Brown in a moderate GOP bloc in the Senate, did not sign. The third GOP abstainer was Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Spokespeople for Snowe and Collins did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The letter accused the president of “an apparent lack of interest in seeking approval of these free trade agreements.” Approval of the pacts would be beneficial to American workers, they wrote, and further delay is “unnecessary and inexcusable.”
“So important are these deals to our economy and our relations with these key allies in Latin America that, until the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees,” the letter read.
Last week, Obama nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to replace Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, leaving the commerce chief position vacant and creating the opportunity for another high-profile nomination fight in the Senate.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.