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Mnuchin to lawmakers: 'I'm highly encouraged you will' pass Trump's North America trade deal

Mnuchin to lawmakers: 'I'm highly encouraged you will' pass Trump's North America trade deal
© Greg Nash

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Overnight Health Care: CDC panel recommends who gets vaccine first | McConnell offering new relief bill | Hahn downplays White House meeting on vaccines MORE said Thursday that he’s optimistic that Congress will approve the administration's new North American trade pact despite the House’s escalating efforts to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE

Mnuchin told lawmakers he believes that Congress will pass Trump’s proposed rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), even as Republican accuse Democrats of slow-walking the deal. 

“This would create additional jobs, this would create additional revenue for the government, additional revenue for consumer and businesses, and it modernizes trade with our two most important trading partners,” Mnuchin told the House Financial Services Committee, moments after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Houston will send residents checks of up to ,200 for pandemic relief MORE (D-Calif.) announced she had instructed committees to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. 

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“I'm not going to speculate on what what happen if you don't pass it, because I'm highly encouraged you will.”

With less than a year until the 2020 elections, Trump and Democrats both face increasing political pressure to ratify the president’s proposed NAFTA rewrite, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). 

Democratic and White House negotiators have expressed hope over the past month that the two sides will soon strike a deal after more than a year of negotiations over labor enforcement, environmental and pharmaceutical provisions of the deal.

As House Democrats close in on a vote to impeach Trump, the party is eager to prove it can still legislate with the president as lawmakers hold him accountable. Passing the USMCA is also a concern for moderate Democrats from swing districts that could flip back into GOP control.

Trump is seeking his first major trade victory amid stalled talks with China and an escalating feud with the European Union. Ratifying the USMCA may be crucial for Trump to maintain his 2016 support from industrial Midwestern states that paved his road to victory in 2020.

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Pelosi has insisted that impeachment will have no impact on the Democrats’ “path to yes” on the USMCA and suggested the caucus and White House could reach a deal by the end of the year. 

But Republicans claim Democrats have dragged their feet on the USMCA and hindered the economy while prioritizing Trump’s impeachment.

“House Democrats are continuing their three-year-long quest to impeach the president and continuing to obstruct urgent bipartisan legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday, citing the USMCA.

Mnuchin didn’t address impeachment Thursday, focusing instead on the potential economic benefits of passing the USMCA. He said the deal would be a major boost to “the single most important trading relationship we have,” and add roughly 0.5 percentage points to gross domestic product growth. 

Mnuchin also said the deal would help spur falling capital expenditures, which he argued would have otherwise increased after the passage of the 2017 tax-cut law. The secretary sparred with Rep. Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (D-Wash.) earlier in the hearing over a persistent decline in business investment, in which Mnuchin accused Heck, who announced this week he won't seek reelection, of “screaming” at him.

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“There's a lot of people who are waiting on the sidelines because of USMCA,” Mnuchin said.

Rep. Andy BarrAndy BarrRep. Andy Barr beats back Democratic challenge in Kentucky Reclaiming the American Dream Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of current emergency lending programs MORE (R-Ky.) echoed Mnuchin, saying the lack of progress on the USMCA “is why we don't have that that line continuing to grow up in terms of capital expenditure.” 

“The best thing we can do in a bipartisan way in this Congress is to pass the USMCA.”