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House Democrats not invited to trade deal bill signing at White House

Posted January 28, 2020 11:46 a.m. EST

— When President Donald Trump signs his revised North American Free Trade Agreement agreement at the White House on Wednesday, congressional Democrats who played a central role in approving the pact won't be there.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not been invited to the signing ceremony for the trade deal, a spokesperson for her office told CNN Tuesday morning.

And Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who shepherded the rebranded US-Mexico-Canada agreement to passage despite heightened tensions between the administration and congressional Democrats amid the contentious impeachment inquiry last year, is also not on the guest list. Nor are the other members of the House Democratic USMCA working group, who negotiated with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for months to obtain changes to the deal.

It is typical for members of both parties to be present when major bipartisan pieces of legislation are signed at public ceremonies.

Neal on Tuesday morning declined to comment on not being invited to the event.

"No, I don't have a reaction," he told CNN as he left a Democratic caucus meeting.

Democrats largely voted for the trade agreement alongside their Republican colleagues when it came to the floor for a vote in December. The deal, which enshrines new auto manufacturing requirements, provisions for the digital economy and labor protections, passed with a vote of 385-41.

RELATED: House passes Trump's trade deal with Canada and Mexico

Politico first reported that key congressional Democrats have not been invited.

It's uncertain that some House Democrats who were involved in the process would have attended the signing even if they had been invited — although those who championed the deal's passage, such as Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, almost certainly would have gone.

The situation could change — there is still time for the administration to send out additional invites before Wednesday. But it's not clear that Trump would want to highlight his foremost legislative accomplishment since the 2018 midterms alongside Democrats who voted to impeach him.

A Senate Republican aide argued that because Democrats took months to negotiate changes to the original agreement, thus delaying its passage, they don't deserve to attend the ceremony.

"Democrats dragged their feet on USMCA for more than a year after it was signed, so I wouldn't be surprised," the aide said when asked about the invite list not including House Democrats. "It took a year of pressure and public shaming. That's not an equal partner in victory."

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