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The war over impeachment has hastened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s determination to approve a trade deal with Mexico and Canada, making it the one thing most likely to get done this year, lawmakers and their aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democratic lawmakers need something to bring home to their constituents ahead of 2020 — especially those in vulnerable districts. And while Pelosi has said she is committed to passing several different proposals, the USMCA trade deal is the most realistic and urgent, Hill sources say.

The state of play: Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), lawmakers in the USMCA working group and others are meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico on Tuesday to discuss the deal, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), a member of the working group, told Axios.

  • "Sometimes a good crisis creates more opportunity," Gomez said of the impeachment inquiry. "And I do believe that we have an opportunity to move as quickly as possible to negotiate the changes that are needed to get to yes."
  • "I remain optimistic that we can work with [United States Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer to get it right and to get to yes," Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) told Axios in a statement.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and chief policy officer Neil Bradley, a vocal advocate for getting USMCA done, told Axios he thinks the trade deal will be passed by Thanksgiving.

The big picture: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who had not supported impeachment in the past, told Axios that USMCA is especially important for him and his colleagues in border districts. In his conversations with constituents in Texas this week, he said "not one single person brought up the impeachment inquiry." They wanted to know about trade.

  • “With all the fighting and chaos in Washington, everyone wants a win to point to. I hope that win can be USMCA," Rep. Josh Harder (D-Calif.), whose district saw nearly 90 dairy farms close in the past decade, told Axios.

If Pelosi fails, Republicans have more ammunition to scorch House Democrats for being impeachment obstructionists.

  • "She does have a way to redeem herself," a Senate GOP aide told Axios. "Trade will be the first test. But if she botches it on USMCA, then it'll reinforce every evil line coming from the campaign and the White House."

Democratic aides also said they were optimistic about passing legislation to address high drug prices along with USMCA. House Democrats will almost certainly pass a drug pricing bill.

  • The bigger question is whether anything can become law, and whether it can happen before the end of the year, per Axios' health care reporter Caitlin Owens.

What to watch: The ongoing messaging battle. Democrats continue to insist that they can both impeach the president and pass serious legislation. Meanwhile, Trump and Republican leaders are already publicly questioning Democrats' ability to do that.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Neil Bradley is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president (not Neil Herrington).

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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