Politics

Lawmakers Show Flickers of Bipartisanship Amid Impeachment

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Impeachment may threaten to further divide the nation, but members of Congress – including those representing northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania – weren’t completely ruling out the prospect of bipartisan cooperation.

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, accusing him of abusing his presidential powers and obstructing Congress as it investigated his actions with Ukraine.

“The President used the power of his office against a foreign country to corrupt our upcoming elections. He is a continuing threat to our democracy and national security,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posted on Twitter shortly before announcing the impeachment charges.

Shortly after that, Pelosi joined U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to announce that a deal had been reached on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – or UMSCA – clearing it for a potential vote in the House.

The impeachment inquiry, which has dominated headlines for months, has divided Congress along familiar partisan lines, and Tuesday’s announcement of charges was no different.

“We know the President tried to bribe a foreign government to undermine American democracy. We have a responsibility to find out exactly what happened,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in response to a request for comment.

“I take my role as juror in any Senate trial seriously and will look at all the facts presented before making any decisions,” he continued. “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same and put country over party.”

Added U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, in a statement: “It is sad that it has come to this. I take no joy in this process, but we cannot have a President that is above the law. If my constituents do something wrong then they face the consequences. The President used his public office and taxpayer money for personal and political gain. That is wrong, and he must be held accountable.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said in a news release Trump committed no impeachable offenses and Democrats wanted to impeach him before he was sworn into office.

“House Democrats know this, and they know how this charade will end – with acquittal in the Senate,” Johnson said. “This is nothing more than an attempt to bloody up President Trump less than a year before he faces reelection. Impeachment proceedings shouldn’t be used as a political weapon – but that’s exactly what’s going on here. And everyone knows it.”

The USMCA announcement – which came shortly after House Democrats had announced the impeachment counts – presented a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, praised Trump and Lighthizer for “their persistence and their determination” to move the agreement forward in the House.

“This is a really good agreement for Ohio,” Portman said. Mexico and Canada are Ohio’s top two trading partners and the agreement presents the opportunity to export more farm products and create more auto jobs, he noted.

“My hope is we can vote soon on this trade agreement because it would be good for economic certainty and better for Ohio in every respect,” Portman said.

Johnson also credited Trump and the ambassador for their roles in delivering the agreement, which the president signed more than a year ago, and accused House Democrats of “wasting their time passing partisan bills and focusing on their impeachment inquiry” rather than working to approve the deal more quickly.

“Make no mistake, USMCA is good news for the American people and the American worker. Reports estimate that it will create over 170,000 new jobs and will add over $60 billion to our [gross domestic product] in just six years,” Johnson said.

“It will also bring our trade policy with our neighbors into the 21st century,” he continued. “I look forward to supporting this deal when it is brought to the House floor.”

Likewise, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16 Pa., called on Congress to “pass this great trade deal” immediately. He thanked Trump for negotiating a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement “that puts American workers, farmers, manufacturers and businesses first.”

Also Tuesday, Portman and Ryan praised the inclusion of several Ohio priorities in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, including authorizing four C-130-J aircraft. Ryan said he would vote for the bill when it comes to the House floor this week.

“I will continue to work closely with Air Force Reserve Command leaders to demonstrate the importance of basing these four C-130Js at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, and to lay out a game plan that will account for multi-year operational excellence at Trumbull County’s largest employer,” Ryan said.

Portman touted funding for Abrams tank and Stryker vehicle production in Lima.

Asked on the conference call how the impeachment inquiry had affected bipartisanship, Portman acknowledged that he might have responded differently before Tuesday.

“Suddenly we’re getting breakthroughs like USMCA and the National Defense Authorization Act,” he said. “I think Democrats probably understand in the House that they need some accomplishments, that impeachment is not adequate to take back to their voters. Voters are also looking for us to do things that help the people we represent so I think you’re starting to see a little opening here.”

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.