After months of quiet negotiations with the White House on changes to the USMCA trade agreement, Democrats on Tuesday said they had reached a deal with President Donald Trump on a deal to replace the NAFTA agreement with Mexico and Canada, possibly paving the way for a vote this year on one of the President's biggest agenda items.
"This is a day we have all been working for," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. "It is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the Administration."
Democrats had pressed for a series of changes related to enforcement of labor and environmental standards, and won new provisions dealing with enforceability of those items.
"It's a victory for America's workers," Pelosi added, as the head of the AFL-CIO signaled his public support.
Make no mistake, we demanded a trade deal that benefits workers and fought every single day to negotiate that deal; and now we have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support. #USMCA— Richard Trumka (@RichardTrumka) December 10, 2019
Looking like very good Democrat support for USMCA. That would be great for our Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2019
A variety of groups hailed the news.
"We are optimistic this development will open the door to final approval of USMCA on a bipartisan basis by the end of the year," said Tom Donahue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"This is welcome news and a relief for American farmers," said Angela Hoffman of the group Farmers for Free Trade.
"Farmers and ranchers will be watching closely to ensure that their members of Congress are standing up for American agriculture,” Hoffman added.
"The USMCA will create even more jobs for the hardworking families who are the backbone of our economy – the farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and small business owners," said Vice President Mike Pence in a statement.
Pence's written statement said Democrats had finally "acquiesced" to a vote on the agreement - but the White House had been fully involved in the behind the scenes talks in recent months with Democrats and other outside groups.
The late changes include agreements to strengthen labor standards, toughen the environmental agreements, set up stricter verification mechanisms, and on dispute resolution issues among the three nations.
The agreement came after months of public criticism of Democrats by the President and GOP lawmakers in Congress - which grew harsher and harsher in recent weeks - even as the White House was working behind the scenes with Speaker Pelosi on ways to tweak the agreement in order to get the support of Democrats and major labor unions.
"There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA," Pelosi said at a news conference in the same room where she helped to announce impeachment charges against the President - just an hour earlier.
USMCA UPDATE: Pelosi tells caucus they have a USMCA deal. Moments later AFL-CIO endorses. "President Trump may have opened this deal. But working people closed it"--AFL statement says— Erik Wasson (@elwasson) December 10, 2019
CNBC: House vote on USMCA planned for Dec. 18.— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) December 10, 2019
A House vote is expected next week on the USMCA deal - just about the same time that lawmakers will also be voting on a pair of historic impeachment charges against President Trump.