Impeachment fight threatens to grind legislative work to halt
The escalating, all-consuming fight on Capitol Hill over the House Democrat-led impeachment inquiry against President Trump is threatening to derail legislative deals once seen as within reach as lawmakers left Washington Friday for a two-week recess.
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., threw her support behind the inquiry this week, the president cast doubt on whether he could still strike a deal with Democrats on a package to strengthen gun laws, approve the trade deal with Mexico and Canada and other areas of possible cooperation.
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“Well, they came up with a manufactured crisis,” the president told reporters this week in New York, ripping into Democrats after they announced plans to ramp up their impeachment efforts. “I don’t know whether or not they’re going to have time to do any deals. I don’t think they can do any deals.”
In the wake of recent mass shootings, Trump has said he willing to consider new gun legislation – including background checks and so-called Red Flag laws. He has not, however, put forward a concrete proposal yet, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he is waiting to see what Trump supports first before bringing any legislation for a vote.
This week, however, the president suggested it could be a casualty of the impeachment fight.
“You know, we were working on guns — gun safety,” Trump said, as he lashed out at Democrats. “They don’t even talk — all they’re talking about is nonsense.”
As lawmakers bolted for their two-week recess, the chairmen of three House Democratic committees issued a subpoena Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for Ukraine-related documents, in light of the whistleblower report against Trump that ignited the new impeachment push.
For her part, Pelosi insisted this week that Democrats could go after Trump and still pass legislation.
“We continue to move forward on meeting the needs of the American people and making progress for them ... At the same time, we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” Pelosi said. “We can do both.”
Some lawmakers, though, are skeptical of bipartisan cooperation.
“This is going to suck up the oxygen from the room,” Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., told the Wall Street Journal. “Whether it was President Clinton — or before President Clinton, President Nixon — when all that activity goes on, it is the focus of the media. It is the focus in the legislature. It is the focus of just about everybody in Washington.”
Congress, however, was able to come together on one pressing issue this week: The Senate passed a temporary government funding bill on Thursday that staves off the risk of a government shutdown through Nov. 21.
The measure would buy additional time for lawmakers to work to hammer out a $1.4 trillion bundle of yearly spending bills that is hung up amid fights over Trump's border wall and abortion. Those measures face a variety of obstacles, and it's not clear whether Congress will pass them.
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Pelosi announced the impeachment probe Tuesday after months of personal resistance to a process she has warned would be divisive for the country and risky for her party.
Trump, who thrives on combat, has all but dared Democrats to move toward impeachment, confident that the specter of an investigation led by the opposition party will bolster rather than diminish his political support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.