Senate Republicans have raised the stakes in their showdown with President Barack Obama over trade policy, saying they will block the confirmation of a new commerce secretary until the administration submits to Congress three pending free-trade agreements.


The administration says it is ready to submit the trade agreement with South Korea to Congress for ratification, but says it needs a little more time for the other two, with Colombia and Panama. Republicans in both the House and Senate have said that is unacceptable, and they would not act on the South Korea deal unless all three pacts are submitted as a package.


In the latest move Monday, 44 Senate Republicans sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a letter initiated by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio saying that until the president submits all three agreements "we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for commerce secretary and any trade-related nominees."


Obama last week nominated current Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next ambassador to China. He has yet to name Locke's successor.


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