House advances U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal; temporary ‘SALT’ tax relief: How Illinois lawmakers voted

Rep. Jesus “Chuy”Garcia, D-Ill., was the only Illinois member to vote against the USCMA.

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The dome of the US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC on March 27, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

The House took up two measures with particular Illinois impact as it wrapped up work for the year on Thursday, advancing a revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada and a provision to increase deductions for state and local taxes.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The House took up two measures with particular Illinois impact as it wrapped up work for the year on Thursday, advancing a revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada and — of great interest to homeowners in the Chicago suburbs — a provision to increase deductions for state and local taxes.

Reducing “SALT” tax caps

Democrats made good on a vow to lift a $10,000 cap on federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes — such as property taxes — signed into law by President Donald Trump as part of his 2017 tax code overhaul.

Nicknamed “SALT” taxes, the measure passed on a mainly party line roll call, 218-206 and moves to an uncertain fate in the Senate. If enacted, the temporary relief would end the cap for taxpayers filing returns for 2020 and 2021.

All 13 Illinois Democrats voted yes. Four Illinois Republicans voted no. [The fifth, GOP Rep. John Shimkus is visiting his son, a Peace Corps worker Tanzania.]

Illinois co-sponsors of the measure were Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Danny Davis and four others representing suburban areas with high property taxes: Reps. Brad Schneider, also on Ways and Means; Raja Krishnamoorthi; Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood.

Schneider told the Chicago Sun-Times, these were “unfair taxes targeting specifically states like Illinois and it’s hurting all our communities.”

U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal: Garcia the only no

On a bipartisan roll call coming a day after Trump’s impeachment, the House advanced a Trump priority, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, with Chicago Democrat Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia the only no in the Illinois delegation.

The measure moves to the Senate, where it will not be taken up until next year. If signed into law, the USCMA will replace “NAFTA,” the North American Trade Agreement passed under President Bill Clinton and enacted in 1994.

The House vote was 385-41: Yes, 192 Republicans and 193 Democrats. No, two Republicans and 38 Democrats.

The Illinois breakdown: Yes, four Republicans and 12 Democrats. No, Garcia.

Garcia, born in Mexico, said in a statement his no vote came “after careful deliberation and many conversations with labor leaders, environmental experts, and advisors in my community and Mexico.”

“I hoped the USMCA would significantly improve on the inadequate labor and environmental protections in NAFTA.”

Illinois farmers will benefit because it lowers trade barriers on corn and soybeans — major Illinois crops. “Forty percent of the products we grow in Illinois go to Mexico or Canada,” Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., said in a statement.

Democrats backed the pact after substantial negotiations with the Trump administration. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., was at the table bargaining over pharmaceutical provisions. In a floor speech she said, “The Trump Administration tried to tuck in huge gifts to Big Pharma that would have raised medicine prices throughout the hemisphere. From day one of our negotiations, I insisted that the biologics exclusivity provision be removed. Today it’s gone.”

The backing of the AFL-CIO was crucial for Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill. He said in a statement, “This was a tough vote for me, but I ultimately decided to support the agreement because, while it has flaws, it is an improvement over the disastrous NAFTA and establishes a floor plan to build from that protects American workers and tries to force Mexico to uphold labor standards that won’t undercut American workers.”

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