This Is the Last Chance for Congress to Score a Win by 2020 | OZY

Passing President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal is smart politics for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


Because passing Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal is smart politics for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Congress’ return to Washington this month has arrived with an unusually large tornado of news and controversy, from impeachment to gun control to new questions around Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s truthfulness under oath to the rising tensions in the Middle East after an attack on a major Saudi Arabian oil facility that the Saudis and Americans are pinning on Iran.

With all of this chaos, chances to achieve any legislative success appear slim. 

Hopes of accomplishing meaningful gun safety legislation are fading. The NRA is jumping all over former congressman Beto O’Rourke’s declaration that “Hell yes, we’re going to take AR-15, your AK-47,” at last week’s Democratic primary debate. 

Talk of impeachment and other investigations by the House Oversight Committee will certainly continue to rattle the president and divide House Democrats.

When I started out, the refrain was: Good government is good politics. We’ve seen very little of both lately.   

So if you are Speaker Nancy Pelosi, what should you do to show you can still govern and get things done? 

Ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Now. 

Immediately some will say: “Don’t do it. Do not give President Donald Trump the win.” This is extremely shortsighted and politically unwise. It is important for Democrats to remember that a big part of why they won the majority in 2018 was their promise to get things done.

Unfortunately, earlier this month, Pelosi showed signs of wanting to delay the passage of the updated NAFTA trade deal by raising concerns over labor standards. This appears to be more of a political tactic. This delay is not only unnecessary but also harmful to the millions who rely on a strong trading relationship with Canada and Mexico. And while aspects of the deal are not ideal, the updates and stability it would provide will help strengthen the country’s economy.  


Furthermore, with all of the uncertainty surrounding U.S.-China trade negotiations, the country — and in fact the global economy — needs some sort of reassurance that we can, at the very least, work with our neighbors.

Another reason to pass the USMCA is Trump’s predisposition to be reckless and irresponsible. Do not think for a minute that Trump wouldn’t withdraw from NAFTA just to be spiteful. The ensuing financial chaos would all but doom the economy, wipe out our farmers and devastate auto sales.

The impeachment issue has been difficult for Pelosi for many reasons, mainly because she is concerned that it could lead to significant losses for members who won in swing districts. The call for impeachment has only grown in the past few months, further backing the moderate members into a corner. Those members need a win. They campaigned on issues like health care, on which they will not be able to deliver any big legislative victories. So why not let them deliver on the critical issue of trade, which affects many of those districts?

Why the immediacy? First, every day that passes is a day closer to the 2020 election and a day less likely to see legislative action. The second reason is that in fewer than 10 working days, the House will be leaving town for a district work period and won’t be returning until Oct. 15. 

When I started out in politics and later in government, the refrain was: Good government is good politics. We’ve seen very little of both lately.   

Speaker Pelosi is as politically astute as they come, which is why she should not follow Trump’s lead of: “I win, therefore you must lose.” Everyone can win, and winning today means putting the ratification of the USMCA up for a vote this week.