WASHINGTON – In a Congress driven by hard-liners, moderates prevailed Tuesday.
And shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the scaled-down impeachment effort, centrist lawmakers were able to tout a bipartisan deal on a trade pact with Canada and Mexico that delivered not just a win for the president but one they'll be able to crow about back home as well.
For moderate Democrats, especially the 31 who represent districts Trump won in 2016, Tuesday was a pretty good day: A major trade deal. A limited impeachment that left progressives disappointed. And signs that bipartisan compromise isn't dead – even on a day when their party was moving ahead with plans to remove the president.
Centrists won the day by being able to show they could help get things done on their terms, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in New Jersey.
"That's what Pelosi had to be able to hand to the moderates, the ones who flipped those districts in 2018, that they could go back to their constituencies and say, 'We didn't take our eye off the ball when we dealt with impeachment,' " he said.
Progressives had pushed to expand articles of impeachment to include obstruction of justice as spelled out by former special counsel Robert Mueller in his report on Russia's interference with the 2016 election to benefit Trump.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., one of the most outspoken Democrats advocating for articles to include findings from Mueller’s report, did not appear thrilled with the compromise.
"I will support the two articles of impeachment (but) I would support a third, obstruction of justice," he said with a sigh.
In a nod to the influence moderates had on the process, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y, said Democratic leaders wanted articles that the overwhelming majority of the caucus could support.
"The consensus was that these are the two strongest points and we should just go with them and not water anything down," he told reporters Tuesday.
Despite winning a key concession, several moderates in Trump districts declined to take a position on impeachment Tuesday.
"It would be irresponsible to comment on this so quickly," said Rep. Max Rose, a New York Democrat representing a district Trump won by nearly 10 points. He had pushed to leave Mueller out of the articles of impeachment.
“We have to give this the level of thought and analysis and judicious consideration that it is deserving of," he said.
Some signaled they were pleased with the outcome and how Pelosi has weighed the needs of lawmakers throughout the caucus.
“I feel like she’s been managing a lot of really difficult dynamics and she’s been responsive to the caucus and to people like me, who are in front-line districts,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., adding that she had yet to read the articles or make any decision.
But still, some moderates remain wary.
Nearly a dozen are floating the idea of proposing a resolution to censure the president rather than impeach, according to Politico, believing a verbal rebuke is a more appropriate remedy than calling for removal.
Already, two of the chamber's 233 Democrats – Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey – have made clear their opposition to impeachment. And so far, it doesn't appear any of the chamber's 197 Republicans will support impeachment. The lone independent, Justin Amash of Michigan, supports it.
Assuming Peterson and Van Drew remain opposed, Democrats could lose up to 16 other Democrats and still impeach Trump.
Moderates also scored an important victory on trade Tuesday when Pelosi announced that House Democrats and Trump reached a deal to revise a new trade deal on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. A vote could take place by the end of the year.
Many Democrats pointed out the progress on a number of issues cut through a key Republican attack: that Democrats are too focused on impeachment to get anything else done.
“I think we’ve just shown that we have the ability to not only walk and chew gum at the same time, but to run, chew gum, do cartwheels at the same time,” said Democratic Caucus Chairmain Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., listing off the deals that have come to fruition over the past several days including the trade deal, movement on government spending bills and a massive Defense reauthorization measure.
“I think it’s a win for the country,” House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said of the trade deal. “Believe it or not, the country is not all about Donald Trump.”
Republicans pushed back, saying impeachment slowed progress on key issues like trade and lowering prescription drug prices.
“How long did it take for them to do something that should have been done a long time ago because they've been obsessed with impeachment?” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
The new trade pact includes rules for the movement of products among the three countries. Among the new provisions are a requirement that a higher percentage of autos be made from parts manufactured in North America.
The deal is expected to add more jobs in the Midwest, including Illinois, Iowa and Michigan, where a number of Democratic lawmakers representing districts Trump won will be able to show that the impeachment debate is not preventing progress on issues important to constituents.
Perhaps most importantly, moderates will be able to show that the caustic divide on impeachment is not preventing Democrats from working with the administration on issues important to U.S. citizens.
Asked how party leaders could work so closely on such a major initiative at the same time they were trying to remove the president, Pelosi said Democrats had won key labor and environmental concessions as well and weren't going to cut off their nose to spite their face.
"There are some people who said, 'Why make it look like he has a victory?' Well, we're declaring victory for the American worker in what is in this agreement," Pelosi told reporters. "But not any one of us is important enough for us to hold up a trade agreement that is important for American workers because of any collateral benefit that might accrue to any one of us."
Both announcements come as Congress is up against an end-of-year deadline on a number of must-pass priorities, including spending bills and defense spending.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Moderate Democrats boosted with Trump impeachment articles, trade deal