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GOP to block Commerce nominees until free trade agreements done

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell
Republican senators have just announced that they will block the confirmation of a new Commerce Secretary - or any commerce related positions - until Democrats move on free trade agreements for Columbia and Panama.

Forty-four GOP senators signed on to a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid Monday, vowing to hold up the nominations until "the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law."

"The time for delay is over," they write. "Colombia and Panama are strong democratic allies in Latin America and both have undertaken serious and meaningful reforms, many of which directly address the concerns of those who want to further delay these agreements. Yet the administration continues to move the goalpost by withholding clear direction and not providing a specific timetable for implementation."

The previous Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, was just appointed by Obama to be the next ambassador to China, replacing possible GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman.