Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi warfare hits new level, raising the risk of even more gridlock
President Donald Trump says he won’t negotiate policy with congressional Democrats while they continue to investigate him. (May 21)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s decision to storm out of an infrastructure meeting with Democrats left lawmakers scrambling to assess whether the fallout would reach other White House priorities, including a pending trade deal with Canada and Mexico that the president hopes will replace NAFTA.
Trump disputed the characterization in a tweet late Wednesday.
“This is not true. I was purposely very polite and calm, much as I was minutes later with the press in the Rose Garden,” Trump wrote. “Can be easily proven. It is all such a lie!”
Trump has already indicated he’s prepared to push most of his legislative agenda off until after the 2020 election, a recognition that Democrats and Republicans were unlikely to reach consensus on much of anything as nearly two dozen Democratic presidential candidates barnstorm early primary states in the hunt for the nomination.
Trump appeared to further close the door on bipartisan agreement with a hastily called statement Wednesday in the Rose Garden in which he indicated Washington could not be on an “investigations” track while also pursuing legislation.
“Let them play their games. We’re going to go down one track at a time,” Trump said of Democrats. “Let them finish up. And we’ll be all set.”
Ever since Democrats captured control of the House in last year’s midterm election, much of Trump’s legislative agenda on immigration, funding for his border wall and healthcare has been aspirational. Trump himself has repeatedly indicated he is prepared to push off many of those items until after next year’s election.
But the latest blowup also left uncertain the status of several White House priorities.
“Sadly, the only job the president seems to be concerned with is his own,” Pelosi wrote in a letter released to reporters Wednesday night. “He threatened to stop working with Democrats on all legislation unless we end oversight of his administration.”
Trump needs Democratic support for his signature trade deal, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. If approved by Congress, that pact would allow Trump to honor a campaign pledge to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
The deal already faced a high hurdle in the Democratic-controlled House. The latest squabble makes its prospects even more doubtful, said Daniel Ujczo, an Ohio-based trade attorney who has closely followed developments surrounding the new trade deal.
“The only way for USMCA to get done is for everything to fall just right between the White House and Congress,” said Ujczo. “And I’ve seen no objective evidence that could happen. And this is yet another example. At the very least, this is adding delay to a process where we were already up against a tight timing window.”
Another potential issue: Talks to fund the government after September and raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The White House and lawmakers were making progress on a two-year agreement this week to avoid another government shutdown and the potential for a financial crisis if the government is forced to default on its debt.
White House officials did not respond to questions about the trade agreement. An administration official said negotiations on the budget and the debt ceiling were continuing between the White House and Congress.
Trump has already been signaling that large portions of agenda might have to wait until after the election. In a series of late-night tweets last month, the president said Republicans would not vote on a plan to deal with health care until after the election. “Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win … back the House,” Trump tweeted.
And as the president rolled out the broad outlines of a proposal last week to deal with legal immigration, he conceded that Democrats might not embrace his ideas. He then used nearly identical language to justify holding off on moving forward until next year.
“We will get it approved immediately after the election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate and, of course, hold the presidency,” Trump told reporters about the immigration plan. “One of the reasons we will win is because of our strong, fair and pro America immigration policy.”
Speaking to an audience in Louisiana last week, Trump even suggested the federal government would replace a dilapidated highway bridge – after he wins a second term.
“If we win this election, which is just 16 months away, we’re giving you a brand new I-10 bridge,” Trump said to robust applause.