Speaker Pelosi fumbling response to Trump's trade wars

American Dairy Coalition
American Dairy Coalition

America’s dairy farmers are putting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on notice.

Up until recently America’s ongoing tariff disputes with Mexico, Canada, China, Europe and Japan have been appropriately coined “President Trump’s Trade Wars.”

Despite his public claim that his policies would lead to “trade deals that are going to get you so much business, you’re not even going to believe it,” Trump’s disruptive tactics have only perpetuated a devastating downturn in the nation’s agriculture sector.

Just this week, for instance, the Commerce Department reported that personal income for American farmers fell by the most in three years during the first quarter. Unresolved trade negotiations, natural disasters and low commodity prices combined are driving the financial strain.

Pelosi is no fool. She is gambling that each passing day without ratification of the USMCA trade pact negotiated by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, Democrats will drive a deeper wedge between the president and the rural Midwest voters who were a key part of his 2016 election coalition. 

“It’s hard for me to see how it’s a priority for Nancy Pelosi to give Donald Trump what would be his biggest economic policy victory, certainly since tax reform,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, bluntly told the New York Times.

From an electoral perspective, Pelosi’s cold political calculus makes sense … up to a point. For instance, the Democrats initially refused to vote on the USMCA because they insisted on wage protections for Mexican labor. Subsequently, this week, Mexico’s legislature approved historic labor reforms, allowing workers to create their own unions and negotiate contracts.

However, Pelosi and Co. immediately dismissed those landmark reforms as insufficient. In doing so, they signaled there is no set of accommodations that will lead them to green light any new, improved Trump-negotiated trade deals — certainly not before the 2020 elections.

There’s a thin line between perceived as “principled” or being deemed “opportunistic” — and the Democrat Leadership just crossed it. Ask the 691 Wisconsin dairy farmers who no longer could maintain cash flow and had to walk away from their family farms in 2018 if they appreciate Pelosi’s moving the goalposts once again, and then prepare for your ears to start ringing.

To be certain, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The President continues to do himself no favors with his refusal to lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico (which, in turn, has damaged and in some cases destroyed long-term market share). This headstrong stance is eroding Trump’s support, even within the Republican-led Senate. “There is no appetite in Congress to debate USMCA with these tariffs in place,” Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley wrote in a Wall Street Journal.

Until recently, President Trump — exclusively — owned this crisis. But every day that passes in which Speaker Pelosi refuses to schedule a USMCA ratification vote on the House floor, she and the Democrats who hold the majority of votes in the House assume a greater share of the responsibility that will ensue from deadlock.

“The ongoing farm crisis transcends partisanship. It's time for America’s farmers to contact their Congressional representatives — regardless of political affiliation — and let them know that enough is enough. It’s time to move forward.”—American Dairy Coalition Board President, Walt Moore.

Pelosi is gambling that, in a choice between an obstinate president and an obstructionist speaker, America’s farmers will ultimately choose the Democrats.

That’s a risky proposition, at best.