It's official, the United States Mexico Canada trade agreement has been passed by both houses of Congress. This has been a long time coming, and a lot of farmers in Iowa have been watching what's going on, as the deal is expected to add pressure to the Chinese trade war that's dehydrated some of their crop prices. And there's some action on the Chinese front as well, as the first phase of a new trade agreement with Iowa's fourth-largest trade partner was recently signed. So the stormy seas seem to be returning to amber waves of grain for a bit.
Now, a lot can be said about the process in which USMCA came about as the successor to NAFTA — or hopeful successor I should say, the president still has to sign it. People can disagree with it, support it, or say it won't be effective. That's all fine, and we'll see how it all pans out in the coming years — word is corn prices went down as the agreements were signed. However, what has actually raised my brow most often during this process is the claim from both of Iowa's U.S. Senators that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's withholding — until quite recently — of the articles of impeachment against President Trump were keeping the USMCA from being completed.
“Iowans are fed up with this political exercise that’s slowing us down from getting important things done, like passing the USMCA – a trade deal that will create over 175,000 jobs across this country," Sen. Joni Ernst said in a Jan. 7 statement, after signing a resolution that gave the House 25 days to deliver the articles of impeachment.
Just for a timeline, the House introduced the USMCA vote Dec. 13, 2019. They voted to impeach President Trump Dec. 18 and then actually approved the USMCA bill the next day. This assumably was a prime example of the House's ability to "walk and chew gum at the same time." So then the trade deal went to the Senate, ahead of the articles of impeachment, and some members of said Senate claimed the House was stalling the USMCA by holding onto the articles of impeachment.
If you're like me, that was a bit confusing, considering the Senate had the USMCA in hand at that point. In fact, as of Jan. 14, Grassley said the trade deal was being discussed in several Senate committees and could potentially pass by Wednesday. He wasn't too far off. It passed Thursday, and the House voted to release the articles of impeachment the day before that.
Like I said, it felt somewhat confusing as to how the impeachment was the wrench in the government's gears. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley pointed out the USMCA "languished in the House for more than a year, only to finally and conveniently move just minutes after Speaker Pelosi announced articles of impeachment." And there's the case to be made that the delay has closed the possibility the trade deal will be ratified this session, adding to Pelosi's alleged opportunism.
So touche, Mr. Grassley.
Indeed, I think most Americans would agree sitting on legislative action until it's politically convenient goes against any elected representative's oath of office. One would hope legislators would fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court as soon as possible, rather than arguing over whether an incoming or outgoing president should nominate said justice. Then, of course, we have to consider the bills on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desk waiting to be acted upon. In fact, some Senate Democrats began taking photos of the bills as they literally stacked up.
Back on the other hand, Ernst told a Spirit Lake audience in September of 2019 that a number of her own bills were not being picked up at the time by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
So, bottom line is that everyone does it – but that doesn't make it right.
In fact, I'll argue it doesn't. I'll argue that the American people want a legislature on every level which acts quickly as guided by their constituents, rather than hijacking that representation in favor of a potential partisan victory — if it can be called such a thing. The ideological intersection of the impeachment and the trade deal is simply the most recent manifestation of the same old malady within the murky swamp we call Washington. It's been red vs. blue for so long, we can hardly envision what it would be like otherwise. We'll shout from our keyboards about what will work in Washington, and we'll murmur about a need for nonpartisanship over our morning coffee in the cafes, but when it comes time to pull the lever, punch the chad or fill in the oval completely with a number two pencil, we still often run to the perceived safety of a primary color. Ironically, it's this very need which in a way is eroding effective representation on Capitol Hill. It's the need to see red triumph over blue and vis versa that puts bills on the back burner, produces political power plays and widens the wounds we will carry into the next election.
The cycle needs to end somewhere. If it will not be the legislators themselves, let it be us — the voters.