Senate Panel Postpones Vote on USTR Nominee

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By Rossella Brevetti

The Senate Finance Committee April 6 postponed a vote on the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to serve as U.S. trade representative.

Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the committee lacked a sufficient quorum to vote on the nomination, citing scheduling conflicts. A committee aide told Bloomberg BNA that Ohio senators Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) were attending a service at Arlington Cemetery for former senator and astronaut John Glenn.

“This is a nominee who enjoys bipartisan support here on the committee,” Hatch said. He said he hopes to move on the nomination “shortly” after the Senate returns from recess. Postponement of the vote means the earliest the panel can act is the week of April 24 when Congress returns from its two-week break.

Lighthizer, a former deputy trade representative, enjoys bipartisan support for his strong focus on enforcement. But committee Democrats insist that his past work for foreign governments requires a waiver of restrictions imposed by the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. The panel’s Democrats have called on Hatch to attach the Miners Protection Act of 2017 (S. 175) to the statutorily required waiver they claim is needed for Lighthizer’s nomination to move forward. Hatch has said the need for a waiver is not clear in Lighthizer’s case and has rejected the linkage to the miners bill.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the panel’s top Democrat, thanked Hatch for trying to address Democrats’ concerns. Wyden said he is “confident that we can find a way to have a positive, strongly bipartisan markup of Mr. Lighthizer.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rossella Brevetti in Washington at RBrevetti@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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