Democrats slam Trump for USMCA signing snub
Congressional Democrats on Wednesday slammed President Trump for excluding them from a signing ceremony for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), an agreement for which they achieved significant changes and won union support.
“Perhaps we were not invited to today’s event on the South Lawn because our presence would be a prominent reminder of our critical leadership in achieving this deal,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.
Democrats delivered strong bipartisan support for the deal in Congress after negotiating significant changes on labor enforcement, environmental provisions and pharmaceuticals with the White House.
“Because of the work of the House Democrats, under the leadership of Richie Neal with his task force, they made tremendous differences in what was proposed originally and what the president will be signing today,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a morning news conference.
Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly took it a step further.
“The White House hasn’t invited House Democrats to their USMCA signing ceremony. But we’ll be well represented in the huge changes to the original USMCA draft that Democrats wrested out of the administration on labor, prescription drugs, environment and enforcement mechanisms,” he said.
Trump closed the original deal, updating the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2018, but Democrats insisted on changes. Over the course of 2019, they engaged in painstaking negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, eventually settling on an updated deal that won the backing of prominent unions such as the AFL-CIO.
Lighthizer, who won praise from Democrats for his seriousness in the negotiations, acknowledged “Republicans and Democrats” who “made this a bipartisan success,” but didn’t mention any Democrats by name.
Lighthizer made light of the situation, a nod to the tense partisan divisions in Washington and the ongoing impeachment trial of Trump.
“I’ve been in town long enough to know that listing members at a time like this makes more enemies than friends,” he said.
Democrats sought credit for their role in the deal.
“The first draft that we saw didn’t take care of many of the problems we were worried about,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).
“We fought hard to improve the original deal because what the Trump administration originally proposed wasn’t sufficient,” she added.
Some pointed to Trump’s decision to leave them out of the ceremony as an unnecessary partisan slight.
“Not that I’m dying to visit the White House these days, but I think it’s pretty petty to exclude the House Dems who were instrumental in improving and passing,” Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) tweeted.
— Rep. Linda Sánchez (@RepLindaSanchez) January 29, 2020