WASHINGTON — Backers of a pending North American trade agreement are getting awfully antsy as the calendar pages keep turning.

“I’m very worried,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters last week. “Time is running out.”

Grassley is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for trade issues. However, any deals must first win approval from the House.

Grassley and other Republican lawmakers have been pressing the case for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations have been going on for a long time between House Democrats and the Trump administration, Grassley said, and it’s “time to fish or cut bait, as the old saying goes.”

If the USMCA isn’t ratified by the end of the year, election-year politics could derail it, Grassley said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, headed to the House floor to urge her colleagues to finalize the deal.

Axne said farmers have been put through enough with this year’s bad weather, trade disruptions and federal policy moves that have undermined ethanol demand.

“I visit each of the 16 counties in my district every month, and whether it’s touring manufacturers, visiting with farmers or stopping into small businesses, everywhere I go the message is loud and clear: Uncertainty is hurting our bottom line,” Axne said. “Agriculture is the backbone of Iowa’s economy. … Supporting farmers is neither a partisan or a political issue — it’s simply the right thing to do.”

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in Omaha on Saturday, Nebraska Republicans have taken the opportunity to call attention to USMCA and urge her to bring it up for a vote.

A number of Republicans have argued that one reason the agreement is stalled is that the ongoing House impeachment inquiry is taking up all the congressional bandwidth.

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