Grassley: Congress about to hand Trump major trade victory before SOTU speech

Will Donald Trump make a triumphant entrance to a joint session of Congress to hail his new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada? And will that be before or after he gets acquitted in an impeachment trial? Yes, says Chuck Grassley to all of the above. Speaking just prior to a committee vote on the USMCA, the Finance Committee chair said Trump could have USMCA completed by the end of the week, or the end of the month at the latest:

Either date would put the approval before Trump’s scheduled State of the Union speech on February 4th. That will make things a bit awkward for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will have to offer Trump full pomp and circumstance for his address to the joint session. Trump will no doubt use the occasion to remind voters that he came to Washington to make deals, while Democrats seem obsessed with refighting the 2016 election instead.

After Grassley’s remarks, the Senate Finance Committee passed the final mark-up by a wide margin:

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade with a bipartisan vote of 25-3, setting up the deal’s eventual passage through Congress. The full Senate is expected to vote on the deal later this month, giving Trump a long-sought policy victory in an election year.

“I’m proud of the hard work of many individuals that made it possible to achieve a strong agreement and a bill that could garner broad support,” said Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. “The bill before us today has something in it for everyone, and it’s not often that we can say that.”

That’s not the only good news on the trade front, either. Earlier today the BEA announced that the trade deficit had declined again in November, thanks to lower imports and an increase of exports:

The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced today that the goods and services deficit was $43.1 billion in November, down $3.9 billion from $46.9 billion in October, revised.

November exports were $208.6 billion, $1.4 billion more than October exports. November imports were $251.7 billion, $2.5 billion less than October imports.

The November decrease in the goods and services deficit reflected a decrease in the goods deficit of $3.9 billion to $63.9 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of less than $0.1 billion to $20.8 billion.

Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit decreased $3.9 billion, or 0.7 percent, from the same period in 2018. Exports decreased less than $0.1 billion or less than 0.1 percent. Imports decreased $3.9 billion or 0.1 percent.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that a similar December result would provide the first year-on-year deficit decline in six years. That might not be known before the State of the Union speech, but one can expect that Trump will be talking up that possibility while Democrats choose carefully how to react to it.

Trump has other issues, of course, and trade policy isn’t dominating the headlines. Perhaps once all of the impeachment drama concludes, it might.