Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats hammer abuse of power charge, allege Trump put self over country Overnight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides Pelosi slams Trump administration's new water rule: 'An outrageous assault' 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 NealKey House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week Coalition of conservative groups to air ads against bipartisan proposal to end 'surprise' medical bills House revives agenda after impeachment storm 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 John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation 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.