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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Modest compromises mark a break from paralysis in Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, speaks at a news conference to discuss the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik

Bipartisan agreement on changes in the nation's basic trade treaty with Mexico and Canada look like a sudden outbreak of legislative normalcy. 

President Donald Trump gets to proclaim an accomplishment. Democrats in Congress get to say that they improved on the administration's proposed pact.

The new deal's economic benefits remain to be seen, but it shows possibly to both parties' benefit that the basic business of Congress hasn't halted.

On one side, the House Democrats in Rep. Nancy Pelosi's second tenure as speaker keep emerging as something other than the crazed partisan warriors Trump calls them when he's under pressure. 

At first Pelosi balked at impeachment. Even now, her majority members are pulling punches as they advance articles aimed at removing Trump.

The resolution does not mention multiple signs of executive obstruction described months ago in Robert Mueller's report on Russian election meddling.

Conventional thinking goes that this was omitted in order to shield members in relatively pro-Trump districts. 

As drafted, the impeachment resolution submitted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) only glances at the special counsel's report. It accuses Trump of corrupt acts in his public demands of Ukraine for investigation announcements and adds vaguely: "These actions were consistent with President Trump's previous invitations of foreign interference in the United States elections." 

That's pretty careful language to come out of a supposedly crazed caucus.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) also sounds unwilling to have his members take political risks as they prepare to defend the president.

Given that an impeachment trial will take place in the GOP-controlled chamber, Trump's team has been pressing to him to make a big show of the all-but-guaranteed acquittal. McConnell, however, has been talking about keeping the process simple and quick. 

Just as the new impeachment articles accuse Trump of stepping over constitutional lines by defying House subpoenas, the Senate has had its lower-profile disputes with the White House over where those lines of power lie.

Less than three months ago, the Senate passed its second resolution of the year aimed at preventing Trump from diverting military funds toward his cherished border wall project under the guise of national emergency. Trump has blocked it.

Other bipartisan action is expected soon in Congress.

Democrats and Republicans on the armed services committees of both houses seem to have agreed on $738 billion in military spending in 2020, including a proposed "Space Force" as a sixth armed service.

Skeptics are reported dissatisfied with the compromise legislation, saying it gives Trump too much leeway to launch an unauthorized offensive against Iran. 

Such objections also smack of a return to the norm, for as long as it may last.

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