Obama: Lib­er­als are wrong about free trade deal

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER AND STEPHEN DINAN

Pres­i­dent Obama said Tues­day that lib­eral crit­ics, in­clud­ing Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, are wrong about the neg­a­tive im­pact of his mas­sive pro­posed free trade deal with Pa­cific Rim na­tions, and he called on Congress to give him the power to ne­go­ti­ate the agree­ment swiftly.

“I love El­iz­a­beth,” Mr. Obama said of the Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat who is lead­ing the fight against the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. “We’re al­lies on a whole host of is­sues. But she’s wrong on this.”

Law­mak­ers are de­bat­ing whether to grant Mr. Obama trade pro­mo­tion author­ity, which would re­quire Congress to vote up or down on the agree­ment with­out be­ing able to amend it.

Repub­li­cans are gen­er­ally in fa­vor of the move, but the pres­i­dent faces a tougher sales job with mem­bers of his own party, with Democrats’ la­bor al­lies op­posed to a free trade deal.

Mrs. War­ren, for ex­am­ple, who has been push­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton to em­brace “mid­dle-class” eco­nomic poli­cies, has charged that the TPP will only help the “rich get richer.”

Mr. Obama, in an in­ter­view on MSNBC’s “Hard­ball,” told host Chris Matthews that his eco­nomic record proves he fa­vors poli­cies to help the mid­dle class.

“Ev­ery­thing I do has been fo­cused on how do we make sure the mid­dle class is get­ting a fair deal,” Mr. Obama said. “I would not be do­ing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the mid­dle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of sug­ges­tions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”

But even as he tried to win over Demo­cratic law­mak­ers, Mr. Obama said some in his party are de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing their con­stituents on trade.

“Some of it has to do with pol­i­tics,” Mr. Obama said. “Democrats aren’t averse to mak­ing po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ments that aren’t en­tirely ac­cu­rate.”

He also said some law­mak­ers are op­posed be­cause, “par­tic­u­larly if they’re Democrats, they feel the pain” of peo­ple who have lost jobs that were blamed on past free trade deals.

AFL-CIO Pres­i­dent Richard Trumka, wav­ing the specter of la­bor union ac­tivists killed in other coun­tries, told Congress on Tues­day to re­ject the fast-track trade author­ity leg­is­la­tion and the mas­sive Asian trade deal that is likely to fol­low, say­ing that un­til other coun­tries im­prove their hu­man rights records, the U.S. shouldn’t agree to com­pete.

Mr. Trumka said the fast-track leg­is­la­tion and the TPP need to be stopped un­til the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion stiff­ens its ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion.

Even as Mr. Obama seeks sup­port, op­po­si­tion is firm­ing up. Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid said his stance on new free trade agree­ments “is not only ‘no,’ but ‘hell no.’”

Repub­li­cans say they will need Democrats to vote for the pack­age, and put the onus squarely on the pres­i­dent.

“We’re re­ally ask­ing the White House to take the lead on round­ing up Demo­cratic votes,” a House Com­mit­tee on Ways and Means Repub­li­can aide said Tues­day. “The pres­i­dent’s in a bet­ter po­si­tion to get Demo­cratic votes than [Ways and Means Chair­man] Paul Ryan is.”

In the House, Demo­cratic Rep. Henry Cuel­lar, a Texan, is co-spon­sor­ing the fast-track leg­is­la­tion.

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