November 14th, 2019
Pelosi: USMCA deal is 'imminent'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated on Thursday that a deal between House lawmakers and the Trump administration on the USMCA could be announced within the coming days. “I do believe that if we can get this to the place it needs to be — which is imminent — that this can be a template for future trade agreements,” Pelosi told reporters during a weekly press briefing. “A good template.”
Pelosi added that she would like to see the trade agreement pass the House this year — a timeline that matches the Trump administration’s own goal. The comments are the clearest indication yet that House Democrats are close to a deal with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer after months of negotiations on the pact's labor, environmental, enforcement and prescription drug provisions.
In what could be another sign of progress, the party has scheduled a caucus meeting for Thursday afternoon specifically focused on economic issues and the USMCA, Democratic aides said.
Two people familiar with the ongoing negotiations also told POLITICO this week they see Democrats and Lighthizer reaching a handshake agreement within the next two weeks, or before lawmakers head home for Thanksgiving. Still, a deal in the next few days would leave only a narrow window for lawmakers to complete the necessary procedural steps and hold a vote on the deal before they wrap up for the year. The House is currently scheduled to adjourn on Dec. 12, leaving 14 legislative days left in 2019.
After House Democrats wrap up negotiations with Lighthizer, the onus will be on the Trump administration to get any changes to the pact approved by both Canada and Mexico, as well as to finalize an implementing bill to send to Capitol Hill. Both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees then plan to hold "mock mark-up" hearings — providing an opportunity for lawmakers to give feedback on the deal — before formal votes take place.
Pelosi appeared to recognize the ticking clock, saying Thursday that lawmakers will need to see a copy of the implementing legislation "as soon as we come to a conclusion" with Lighthizer.
She added that Democrats already "have an idea" of what the implementing bill will look like, which leaves the door open to the House potentially getting the agreement done this year. "That would be my goal," she said. If the House passes the deal, the legislation is expected to sail through the Republican-led Senate.
Of House Democrats' four major concerns with the deal, the two areas that have proved the hardest to resolve are issues with labor provisions and enforcement of the overall deal. Pelosi underscored her focus on enforcement in particular but said the two sides “are moving positively.”
Asked how organized labor groups like the AFL-CIO might respond to the negotiated fixes, Pelosi said simply that Democrats and labor have "shared values." “We’re in a good place,” she said.