- The Washington Times
Wednesday, October 2, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Wednesday her newfound focus on impeachment won’t prevent Democrats from tackling the big issues they promised voters in last year’s elections — but President Trump said there’s fat chance of that.

Mrs. Pelosi kicked off her weekly press conference by ticking off the agenda items she says she still wants to pursue this year, including a bill to give the government a greater role in setting prescription drug prices and negotiations over a trade deal she has kept in limbo for months.

But even she made clear her focus was impeachment, bringing one of her top investigative lieutenants, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, to the press conference to deliver an update on Democrats’ efforts to oust Mr. Trump.

“We feel a real sense of urgency here,” Mr. Schiff said of the impeachment inquiry, which Mrs. Pelosi unilaterally announced last week and which is now the work of multiple committees.

Mrs. Pelosi insisted the impeachment effort can be kept separate from Democrats’ day jobs.

“They have nothing to do with each other,” she said.

She said her caucus members, who are home for a two-week vacation, are supposed to be talking with constituents about the prescription drug price bill, and she said that will be the top legislative business when Congress returns.

The California Democrat said she also wants to revive negotiations on an infrastructure package. Those collapsed this year when Mr. Trump, furious are a previous round of House investigations, walked out of a meeting with Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Mrs. Pelosi said ground is quietly being gained on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade deal Mr. Trump negotiated. Though the speaker has blocked a vote for months, she insisted Wednesday that her side is trading offers with the administration.

“The quiet you hear is progress,” she said.

Mr. Trump tweeted that Mrs. Pelosi was creating a smoke screen by talking about drug prices and trade deals.

“She is incapable of working on either,” he tweeted. “It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment. The Do Nothing Democrats are stuck in mud!”

He warned Democrats in his State of the Union address in February that they had to make a choice.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way,” he said.

Democrats have tried, anyway.

But they’ve been far less successful on the legislative front, passing a torrent of liberal wish-list items through their chamber only to see them bottled up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Perhaps the most consequential bill to pass this year has been an emergency border funding bill, which was written in the Senate and was forced on Mrs. Pelosi and her caucus.

Mr. Trump’s approach — saying he can’t work with a party that is trying to oust him — is starkly different from the way President Bill Clinton handled impeachment in 1998 and 1999.

Mr. Clinton went about his business as if impeachment wasn’t happening, making the case that he had a job to do as president and would do it no matter what Congress was interested in.

Polls taken in the days since Mrs. Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry show most Americans don’t expect Mrs. Pelosi to make good on her claim that she can legislate and investigate at the same time. One CBS survey found 58% said Congress will be “too distracted” to make headway on bills.

Before they left for the two-week vacation, some House Democrats feared that eventuality.

“This is going to suck all the oxygen out of the room,” said Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat. “It is the focus of the media. It is the focus of the legislature. It is the focus of just about everyone in Washington.”

Mr. Van Drew, who opposes impeachment, though he doesn’t object to the investigations, said his constituents rarely approach him urging impeachment, and said they’re tiring of the focus.

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