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Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal during a news conference on the USMCA trade agreement, Dec.10. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Democrats have a "tentative plan" to vote Thursday on the trade deal President Trump negotiated with Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA, per a senior House Democratic aide, but Mexican officials are complicating those plans.

Driving the news: "Mexico's top trade negotiator plans to return to Washington ... to express his outrage over language in the U.S. bill to implement the new North American trade agreement," Politico's Sabrina Rodriguez reports.

  • "Mexico was blindsided by the inclusion of language in the implementing bill that would allow the Trump administration to deploy full-time diplomats to Mexico to make sure the country is upholding labor standards, Jesús Seade, Mexico's undersecretary for North America, said Saturday."

The big picture: Mexico has already ratified these changes to the deal. The nightmare scenario for Trump and Democratic leadership is that domestic pressures force the Mexican government to take drastic action, like saying they'll block U.S. inspectors from Mexican factories. That would severely complicate a deal that was set to easily pass Congress.

Between the lines: The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will probably still fly through the House at the end of this week. Trump has crafted a deal that no traditional Republican would have supported in the pre-Trump era, and Nancy Pelosi is keenly aware of that. She has jettisoned the promised process to ram the deal through before the end of the year.

  • It's also good politics for Pelosi to sandwich a Wednesday impeachment vote in between two governing votes: a Tuesday vote to fund the government and a Thursday vote to pass the USMCA.

The bottom line: Democrats who've worked on trade deals for decades say they doubt that any other Republican president in the foreseeable future would support a deal like the USMCA. The USMCA is a deal tailor-made for organized labor and protectionist Democrats. That Republicans are willing to vote for it is a testament to the awesome power Trump wields over his party.

  • Pelosi reportedly told her caucus that Democrats "ate their [Republicans'] lunch" on USMCA.
  • But the ensuing debate over whether she did in fact eat their lunch misses the point. Trump didn't care about traditional GOP trade priorities and he made Republicans irrelevant to the negotiations.
  • Trump correctly identified that Republicans would step in line, no matter what he decided. And leaving aside Pat Toomey, the lonely voice of free trade in the Republican Senate, Trump read his party right.

Go deeper: Business groups express growing dissatisfaction with USMCA compromise

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.