Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took a break from budget negotiations this week to get back to one of the Senate GOP's most popular pastimes: blocking presidential nominees. McConnell, along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), pledged in a letter on Monday to hold up any White House nominee to replace departing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as well as nominees for any other trade-related posts until trade agreements with Colombia and Panama clear the Senate.
"My fear is in trying to appease their union allies the administration is willing to let these two agreements wither on the vine," Hatch said at a press conference Monday announcing the move. "We are here today to make clear that we will not allow that to happen."
President Obama said that the agreements were a priority in his State of the Union this year, but U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said last month that the Latin American countries must address their own outstanding labor issues, including accusations of violence against labor leaders in Colombia, before a final deal is reached.