- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The articles of impeachment against President Trump that House Democrats announced Tuesday spurred the Senate into action unlike anything else this year.

With the specter of a January impeachment trial looming, the Senate was poised to take new action on a defense bill, a trade agreement, a spending impasse and more before the end of 2019.

The likelihood that the Senate will finish its to-do list before Christmas is growing slimmer by the day.

For months, the Senate has made little progress and sounded skeptical of action on the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides planning for the Pentagon’s spending and policy aims for the new year. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, announced that the NDAA “should be able to pass” in both chambers soon.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, on the Senate floor said he was not thrilled by the new NDAA but thought it would pass Congress “in the coming week.”

The cautiously optimistic outlook comes after House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders agreed to a $738 billion defense policy bill that approved benefits for military and federal personnel and set aside funding for the Space Force.

Also gaining ground was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration announced an agreement Tuesday morning soon after House Democrats detailed their impeachment plans.

But Mr. McConnell told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the Senate would not consider USMCA before breaking for the Christmas holiday.

“We will not be doing USMCA in the Senate between now and the end of next week,” Mr. McConnell said. “That will have to come up in all likelihood right after the [potential impeachment] trial is finished in the Senate.”

While Mr. McConnell said he thought it was impossible to finish USMCA or turn to an impeachment trial before breaking for Christmas, he said he thought completing the NDAA and resolving a spending impasse were much more plausible goals.

If no deal on spending legislation is reached by the end of Dec. 20, the government will be partially shut down again.

Congressional appropriators met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mrs. Pelosi in her office Tuesday for a “short meeting, but a fruitful meeting,” according to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican.

After the meeting, the appropriators signaled that they planned to regroup on Thursday to better resolve the outstanding issues.

“We’re setting Thursday as a target not to complete the whole process but hopefully get most of the major issues completed,” Rep. Nita Lowey, House Appropriations Committee chairwoman, told reporters outside Mrs. Pelosi’s office.

The last-minute negotiations mean the Senate likely will be waiting until the last moments of the 2019 legislative year to fulfill its obligations and prevent a government shutdown.

“Obstruction and stalemate have brought us to the 11th hour,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I hope that now that we’re here, Democrats will be able to set aside the impeachment parade long enough to get the people’s business finally finished.”

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