WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s freshly launched impeachment inquiry could imperil more than just President Donald Trump. It could also snuff out any hope of passing a key legislative priority for his industry allies: oil and gas companies.
That would be the ratification of a trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, which would secure the free flow of crude oil and refined fuels between the three countries.
It was one of the few flickering bipartisan efforts to pass legislation before the 2020 election. But the impeachment inquiry already consuming Washington will test whether congressional Democrats and Trump can still to work together to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It's a goal many in both parties want to achieve - especially Trump as he prepares for his reelection race.
The oil and gas business is also dead-set on passing the revised North American Free Trade Agreement this Congress, which contains some key wins it eagerly wants codified into law. It would reduce tariffs on thinning materials that help Canadian crude oil reach American refineries and preserve the tax-free transport of other raw and refined petroleum products across borders. It also allows U.S. oil and gas companies to sue Mexico under special arbitration rules if it issues regulations that hamper its investments across the border.
Groups lobbying hard for the trade deal in Washington were adamant that the impeachment inquiry should not stall it.
"The American people expect their elected officials to walk and chew gum at the same time," Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's executive vice president and chief policy officer, said in a statement. "It is imperative for our economy that lawmakers and the administration keep moving forward on and complete enactment of USMCA. There are no excuses for inaction."
But already brittle relations between House leaders and the White House were beginning to snap as Pelosi and other Democrats weigh impeachment. Pelosi has full control over whether the agreement gets a floor vote in the House. Even Trump acknowledged Wednesday that Pelosi may no longer have the will to move forward with the trade pact.
"I don't know that they're ever going to get a vote because they are all fighting," Trump said of the trade deal.
Congressional Republicans, too, warned their Democratic counterparts not to turn passage of the revised pact into a bargaining chip. "If Democrats use impeachment proceedings as a basis to not act on policy that will directly benefit Americans like the USMCA or lowering prescription drug prices, that would prove they're more interested in politics and opposing the president at all costs than serving the American people," Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said this week.
Yet as The Washington Post reports, House Democrats met to discuss their concerns over the trade pact and find a way forward after the impeachment announcement. Democrats are seeking to extract from the Trump administration better protections for workers and improved and enforceable environmental standards in the agreement.