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 MnuchinThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Delaney says Trump is spewing venom when he should be leading; Protests roil the nation as fears of new virus outbreaks grow GOP lawmakers plan measure to force Americans to divest from firms linked to Chinese military: report Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues 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 TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police 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 PelosiTrump praises 'domination' of DC protesters Pelosi, Schumer say treatment of protesters outside White House 'dishonors every value that faith teaches us' Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd 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 McConnellRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Biden to deliver remarks in Philadelphia Tuesday on nationwide protests Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests 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.

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

Rep. Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrHouse GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 Put entrepreneurs, workers and flexibility in next stimulus package McCarthy unveils new GOP-led China task force 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.”