CEDAR RAPIDS — A day after House Democrats announced they had reached agreement with the White House of a North American trade agreement, Republicans who control the Senate said approval will have to wait until after an anticipated impeachment trial.
That could mean Senate approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement may have to wait until February, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Regardless of the timing, Grassley predicted passage will come easier than in the House.
Even if the House votes on the USMCA this week, the Iowa Republican doubts there would be time before Congress recesses for the Christmas holiday to take up the trade pact. That’s because he expects Congress to spend its time next week on nominations and approving budget measures.
“We won’t have a government shutdown (because) one, we either have a gigantic a compromise at the end to fund government through Sept. 30 or we’re going have a continuing resolution that’ll take us over until February,” Grassley told Bloomberg Dec. 11. “Either way the government won’t be shutdown 35 days like it was a year ago.”
Then, assuming the House approves articles of impeachment, January is likely to be consumed by a trial to determine if President Donald Trump will be removed from office. It’s hard to estimate how long that will take, he added.
The impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton lasted about five weeks, but Grassley doesn’t think Trump’s trial to last that long. It likely will take a few days for the House to present its case and a few more for the president to present his defense. Under Senate rules, he said, no other business will be taken up without unanimous consent.
It may depend on how much support there is for removing the president from office. Grassley wants a fair hearing, but said it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time on impeachment if nowhere near a two-thirds majority of senators wants to vote to remove the president.
According to the RealClearPolitics.com polling average, public opinion is split 47 percent in favor of impeachment and 46 percent opposed.
He doesn’t think there is a question of support for the USMCA even though at least one GOP senator has announced he will note vote for it. As many as two or three Republicans might vote against it, Grassley said, but he’s more concerned about how many Democrats will vote against the agreement.