House Dems de­rail Obama trade agenda Amer­i­cans would rather have jobs than trade as­sis­tance: Pelosi


U.S. law­mak­ers dealt a sting­ing blow Fri­day to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and his am­bi­tious trade agenda, stalling a mea­sure that would have given him fast-track author­ity to con­clude a tran­sPa­cific trade ac­cord.

The vote, in which two-thirds of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives op­posed a work­ers aid pro­gram in the trade pack­age, marked a de­feat for the pres­i­dent, who had per­son­ally come to Capitol Hill ear­lier in the day in a failed bid to per­suade fel­low mem­bers of his Demo­cratic Party to back him.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, the House ac­tu­ally passed the bill that would give Obama “Trade Pro­mo­tion Author­ity” (TPA) to rapidly con­clude the Pa­cific trade deal and send it to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

But it was merely a show vote be­cause the re­jec­tion of the work­ers aid mea­sure au­to­mat­i­cally put the brakes on TPA.

Both mea­sures passed the Se­nate as a pack­age; if ei­ther of them fails in the House, nei­ther reaches the pres­i­dent’s desk.

A bruised Obama urged the House to vote again “as soon as pos­si­ble” so U.S. busi­nesses can “sell goods made in Amer­ica to the rest of the world,” while his spokesman Josh Earnest cast the fail­ure as “an­other pro­ce­dural snafu.”

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy told re­porters he was “dis­ap­pointed” in the re­sult and warned Democrats it was time to “se­ri­ously re­think” their po­si­tion ahead of a pos­si­ble new vote on the mea­sure next week.

“We need to fin­ish this job,” McCarthy said.

“While we have not had this author­ity, there have been 100 agree­ments, and Amer­ica has been a part of zero.”

TPA would al­low Obama to fi­nal­ize ne­go­ti­a­tions with 11 other Pa­cific Rim coun­tries on what would be the largest trade agree­ment ever, a mas­sive pact with Ja­pan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Viet­nam and oth­ers en­com­pass­ing some 40 per­cent of global com­merce.

His own Democrats, though, stood in the way.

“We need to slow this fast track down,” top House Demo­crat Nancy Pelosi, a long­time Obama ally, told mem­bers, re­veal­ing a po­si­tion that she had kept pri­vate for weeks.




is with other coun­tries, we want a bet­ter deal for Amer­ica’s work­ers,” she said.

“Our peo­ple would rather have a job than trade as­sis­tance,” Pelosi said of the work­ers-aid pro­gram, known as Trade Ad­just­ment Author­ity. “Its de­feat, sad to say, is the only way that we will be able to slow down the fast track.”

In a let­ter to mem­bers af­ter the vote, she urged op­po­si­tion Repub­li­cans and Democrats to craft a new trade pack­age with stronger la­bor rights and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

Not Over Yet

House Speaker John Boehner im­me­di­ately re-in­tro­duced the worker-aid bill, which ac­cord­ing to aides gives him 48 hours to bring it back to the floor for a fresh vote.

“The pres­i­dent has some work yet to do with his party to com­plete this process. This isn’t over yet,” House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan said.

Repub­li­cans sig­naled they were pre­pared to re­group rather than aban­don ef­forts to up­date Amer­ica’s trade pol­icy, and the White House in­sisted the process was sal­vage­able and en­cour­aged leg­is­la­tors to dis­cuss the path for­ward.

Af­ter their closed-door meet­ing with Obama ear­lier Fri­day, sev­eral Democrats in­sisted they would hold their ground, even af­ter the pres­i­dent urged them to “play it straight” and vote their val­ues on worker as­sis­tance.

“He didn’t change my mind,” House Demo­crat Gene Green said.

An­gry Democrats said they felt the work­ers’ aid pro­gram, Trade Ad­just­ment As­sis­tance (TAA), tra­di­tion­ally backed over­whelm­ingly by their party, was be­ing used to lure law­mak­ers to vote for TPA.

Con­gress­man Brad Sher­man said Obama gave an “elo­quent” de­fense of the fast- track bill, but the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and much of his cau­cus were not swayed.

“Ob­vi­ously he thinks that this trade deal will help the Amer­i­can econ­omy and help work­ing fam­i­lies. The vast ma­jor­ity of Democrats — and 100 per­cent of all those or­ga­ni­za­tions of work­ing peo­ple — dis­agree,” Sher­man said.

The AFL-CIO, Amer­ica’s largest um­brella la­bor group, ap­plauded the House for hav­ing “done the right thing.”

Trade is likely to re­main a head­line is­sue through the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Sen. Bernie San­ders, who is chal­leng­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, hailed the vote as “a victory for Amer­ica’s work­ing peo­ple” and a “de­feat for cor­po­rate Amer­ica,” which he ac­cuses of out­sourc­ing mil­lions of jobs.

Clin­ton has re­mained pub­licly neu­tral on the trade de­bate.

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