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Does Impeachment Mean Nothing Else Gets Done in Washington This Year?

Michael Rainey

Some lawmakers are expressing concerns that the unfolding impeachment process is putting a halt to the legislative agenda for the foreseeable future, The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.

“The House impeachment inquiry has quickly sucked up the political oxygen in Washington, ramping up tensions between Congress and the White House ahead of next year’s elections,” Carnet wrote Friday. “The high-stakes standoff is now raising questions about what, if anything, will get signed into law.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that if Congress focuses all of its attention on impeachment, “then that’s going to come at a cost. And I think the cost will be legislation that we could pass.” Speaking about high-priority bills such as funding to keep the government open, Cornyn said, “hopefully those won’t be casualties, but around here it’s anybody’s guess.”

Some senators say there’s still room to get things done. Sen. Lindsey Graham has urged President Trump to work with Congress even as the impeachment inquiry continues, as President Clinton did, Carney says. “I think he needs to reach out to Democrats and Republicans and say in the middle of all this mess, ‘Let’s see if we can do something on the USMCA and prescription drugs,’” Graham said.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are blaming the Trump administration for failing to define and promote a coherent agenda, and more broadly to work with Congress in a consistent and respectful way. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he doesn’t even know who the White House is using as a point person. “Put a gun to my head and ask me to name the Senate congressional liaison, and I’ll tell you just pull the trigger. I don’t even know who it is,” Durbin said.

Durbin also said that he doubted anything would pass, even though it would benefit lawmakers and the White House to show voters that they could be productive. “Infrastructure, remember that one? Blew up in our face,” Durbin said.

The bottom line: There are only about 20 legislative days left in 2019, and Congress has a sizeable to-do list, including government funding, defense policy, tax extenders, drug prices and trade agreements. The impeachment process – and Trump’s sometimes volatile reaction to it – sharply increase the odds that any or all of those items could fall by the wayside.

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