Four months after being nominated as President Trump’s trade pick, Robert Lighthizer was confirmed by the Senate Thursday by a vote of 82-14. Lighthizer, who served as a trade official during the Reagan administration, faced a slow path to confirmation because his policies divided some Republicans. He earned the approval of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who cited Lighthizer's "years of experience in public service." Yet, Republican senators John McCain (AZ) and Ben Sasse (NE) could not not support him because of his supposed protectionist views.
Nevertheless, Lighthizer’s approval paves a clearer path for Trump as he prepares to negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement in August.
Upon confirmation, Lighthizer is expected to move quickly to notify Congress of Trump’s intent to reopen NAFTA, kicking off a 90-day consultative period with lawmakers before the talks can begin. That would set up an August start date for the negotiations, for which both Canada and Mexico have been prepared for months.