Sun, Dec 15, 2019 - Page 5 News List

US Politics: Washington officials seek working image

‘WILD WEEK’:With proceedings against Donald Trump dominating headlines, but not motivating voters, politicians seem eager to show that other work is being done


US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.

Photo: AP

US President Donald Trump and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi do not see eye-to-eye on much these days, but in the throes of impeachment, they are in lockstep on the desire to close out the year by checking off items on their to-do lists.

As the uncertain politics of the effort to remove Trump from office collide with critical year-end legislative deadlines, Washington, for the first time in recent memory, appears intent on demonstrating its capacity to multitask. Lawmakers and White House officials are eager to project the image that they have been focused on anything but the polarizing proceedings that are increasingly consuming their days and nights.

Even Trump, no stranger to unpredictability and drama, could only marvel at the week of Washington whiplash.

“This has been a wild week,” he said on Friday morning as he hosted the president of Paraguay in the Oval Office.

On Friday, as the House Judiciary Committee was passing articles of impeachment against the president, Trump had counter-programming at the ready, announcing new progress on long-delayed negotiations with China to tame an 18-month trade dispute.

“Take note @SpeakerPelosi - this is what real leadership looks like,” tweeted White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, highlighting the “phase-one” deal.

It was far from the first split-screen moment of the week.

In the span of one hour on Tuesday, Pelosi held a news conference to announce articles of impeachment against the president — then swiftly walked down the hall to announce a bipartisan deal to fulfill the president’s top legislative priority of the year, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade.

A day later, as the House Judiciary Committee took up the impeachment articles, the full House passed a compromise defense spending bill that would provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave, a priority of the president’s daughter. The bill also would bring Trump’s long-promised Space Force to life.

The incongruous moments reflect the unease on all sides in Washington about how the polarizing impeachment process will play out politically and the fact that many voters across the country do not view impeachment as a high priority. So Democrats and the White House are going all-out to show that they can do their day jobs amid the impeachment drama on TV.

Washington is set for more of those moments next week, with the anticipated party-line impeachment vote on Wednesday sandwiched between Tuesday’s expected passage of a budget bill and Thursday’s thumbs-up for the USMCA.

For Pelosi, the decision to give the president those victories appeared aimed at trying to protect her caucus against charges — featured prominently in Republican adverts aimed at vulnerable Democrats — that their focus on impeachment has distracted from the bread-and-butter issues that voters care about. Democrats maintain that the issues they have made progress on are long-held priorities, like the new parental-leave policy for federal employees, and stronger labor and environmental protections in the USMCA.

“It’s not a coincidence that the USMCA agreement was announced the same morning that the articles of impeachment were introduced,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and partner at Firehouse Strategies, which has been polling how impeachment is playing in crucial battleground states. “I think congressional Democrats in swing districts want to be able to show their constituents that they’ve done more than just impeach the president.”

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