House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that negotiations to bring the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to the House floor are ongoing, but procedural steps required once a deal with the Trump administration is secured could push a vote into the new year.

Speaking to reporters just ahead of a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Pelosi told reporters that she is “eager to get this done,” but that reaching an agreement is only part of the process.

When asked if a deal was necessary this week to allow for a vote in December, she said even that timeline might be too tight of a turnaround for the agreement’s implementing legislation.

“I’m not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough time to finish, but it just depends on how much agreement we come to,” Pelosi said.

“We certainly have to make progress today,” she said. “This is about legislating, and it takes time. You need, in most cases, a (Congressional Budget Office) report, you have to make sure that the committees of jurisdiction have all signed off so that you can strongly go the floor.”

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., told Agri-Pulse  before the Pelosi-Lighthizer meeting that “we’re very close” to a deal.  

Ag groups and other USMCA proponents have been pushing for congressional approval of the USMCA implementing bill before the end of the year to avoid having the deal become wrapped up in election-year politics. The agreement makes revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement that include some benefits for U.S. dairy and wheat growers. 

The House is on recess next week. 

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky, who was in Indianapolis Thursday to speak to the annual Sustainable Agriculture Summit, told reporters that delaying the USMCA vote to 2020 "would be very unfortunate, because we've been waiting a long time for this.... Farmers are looking for trade certainty, the American people are looking for trade certainty, and I think it just postpones locking in an improved trade agreement."

Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.

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