With the debate over the impeachment of President Trump reaching a fever pitch, one might wonder how a divided Congress can get anything done.
This week, it surprised us.
Amid all the rancor, a historic bipartisan agreement was reached this week on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a sequel to NAFTA, with southern Minnesota lawmakers DFL Rep. Angie Craig and GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn hailing the outcome as a win for farmers and workers.
"It's going to be very good for our farmers, our agribusinesses, medical, machinery, mining," Hagedorn said. "It will expand the economy and create high-wage jobs."
Craig said the agreement will eliminate a measure of uncertainty for farmers under NAFTA and provide access to some new markets. She noted the tough year farmers have endured this year, from a trade with China to flooding to small refinery oil waivers.
"Getting USMCA over the finish line by the end of the year will at least eliminate a little bit of uncertainty and give them a bit of peace of mind," Craig said.
Some have argued that USMCA wasn't all that much different from NAFTA, but Craig disagreed.
She said the final version of the bill was a "significant improvement" over the first draft presented to lawmakers. She worked behind the scenes with the administration to remove a provision that would have extended the exclusivity period for biologic drugs in Mexico and Canada. That measure, which was supported by Big Pharma, would have kept prices higher.
Hagedorn said the deal will benefit small dairy farmers, who have been slammed by low prices and overproduction. Markets in Canada that were effectively closed to American farmers by 300% tariffs will now be open to dairy.
"It's a big turnaround in that area," Hagedorn said.
The USMCA deal was announced practically at the same time House Democrats released articles of impeachment against Trump. Hagedorn suggested that the timing may not have been entirely an accident. The agreed-to deal was available to House Democrats for the past 10 months, he said.
Both said beneath the partisan hostility, work is proceeding. Craig said she is working with Rep. Mark Meadows, a conservative and outspoken Trump supporter, on a bill. Although "this is never going to make the cable news," two-thirds of the bills she has sponsored or co-sponsored are bipartisan.
"Good government has to mean working across the aisle," she said.
Hagedorn said there are deals to be reached in a bipartisan fashion if House Democrats are inclined, from transportation infrastructure to prescription drug reform.
The USMCA deal was also a win for workers because it shores up enforcement of labor standards, Craig said. That means American workers won't be "undercut by companies that move their manufacturing to Mexico because of lax labor and environmental standards," she said.
Craig and Hagedorn are both first-term lawmakers. A recent Roll Call article rated both lawmakers' chances of winning re-election as favorable. Craig's chances were recently upgraded from "lean Democratic" to "likely Democratic," while Hagedorn's were downgraded from "lean Republican" to "tilt Republican," according to the article.
Still, impeachment continues to dominant the news. Craig said she was reluctant to support an impeachment inquiry until details of Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president became public. Then she supported the inquiry.
She said she isn't prepared to say whether she will vote to impeach the president.
"This isn't why I ran for Congress. No member of Congress should ever want to take this vote. But it is my constitutional duty to look at the facts," Craig said.
As he has in town hall meetings, Hagedorn reiterated his argument that "there was no impeachable offense."
"You know it when you see it, and I haven't seen it," he said. "Frankly, it's a political exercise that's unwarranted."