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Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Job openings jump to record high of 8.1 million | Wyden opposes gas tax hike | Airlines feel fuel crunch Pelosi: House Democrats want to make child tax credit expansion permanent Pelosi announces change to House floor mask rules MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday cast doubt on the possibility of passing an updated North American trade deal by the end of 2019, a departure from her previous characterization of the deal as “imminent.”

“I’m not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough time to finish,” she said, referencing an end-of-year timeline many had hoped for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with Pelosi and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealGAO report finds maternal mortality rates higher in rural, underserved areas On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Rural Democrats urge protections from tax increases for family farms MORE (D-Mass.) later on Thursday, but a final deal remained out of reach.

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Neal said that of five outstanding issues, they had reached agreement on roughly half of them and would continue negotiations next week.

He remained hopeful, however, that the deal could be finalized and signed into law before the New Year.

For months, Democrats have negotiated with the White House on enforcement provisions in the deal, which they say are critical to earn their support.

“You’re either for enforcement or you're for niceties, and we’d like to have both,” Pelosi said Thursday.

“I voted for NAFTA, you’ve heard me say that over and over, but based on sidebars and letters and all that, which were never honored. So we’re just saying, all these good intentions, let’s honor our workers by putting them in the bill, so they have the effect of law,” she added.

Republicans have accused Democrats of dithering on the bill, saying the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE was preventing meaningful progress on legislative action. If passed, USMCA would be a central achievement for Trump going into the 2020 elections. As a candidate, he repeatedly promised to update the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Democrats say that an agreement on the trade deal could set a precedent for future deals.

Updated: 3:11 p.m.