Friday, 12 June 2015 00:00

Will Dems rescue Obama's trade pact?

Written by Jake Sherman, John Breshnahan and Lauren French | Politico

Hours before one of the most consequential votes of President Barack Obama’s second term — whether to give him fast-track trade powers to clinch a sprawling Pacific Rim trade deal — Democrats and Republicans have no idea whether the votes are there to pass it.

What they do know is that pockets of opposition from every corner of the House of Representatives has thrown the package into serious jeopardy.

Liberals fear they’re getting taken for a ride by a White House that doesn’t care about their interests. Conservatives don’t want to give a blank check to Obama, and vehemently oppose a must-pass job-training program. Labor unions have ginned up opposition on the left.

With that, the weeks-long trade fight is finally coming to a head, pitting labor unions and liberals against Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been noticeably silent until the past few days, is the big unknown.

Even top lawmakers and aides say the fate of the trade deal is anyone’s guess.

The centerpiece of Obama’s second-term agenda hangs in the balance because without a win tomorrow in the House, finishing the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership becomes all the more difficult.

To advance to a vote on the fast-track bill, the unpredictable House must first pass Trade Adjustment Assistance — an aid and training program for workers who lose their jobs to trade. But that bill — which is imperative to secure the roughly two dozen Democratic votes needed to pass the larger trade deal — appears to be in trouble.

Traditionally a Democratic favorite, TAA has gotten caught in a nasty spat between liberals, who are generally against fast track, and moderate Democrats and Republicans, who want to complete the Pacific trade package. Some Democrats initially opposed reauthorizing TAA because of a plan to use a small cut to Medicare to pay for it. That idea was scrapped, and many Democrats now openly say they want to defeat TAA in order to kill Obama’s bid for fast-track authority.

In a move that’s left some Democratic and Republican lawmakers befuddled, Pelosi has not said how she‘ll vote on either TAA or fast track. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says he’ll vote for TAA but hasn’t revealed his position on fast track as he keeps an eye on Pelosi’s moves.

The lack of guidance from their leaders has left the House Democratic Caucus rudderless, and created a big opening for opponents to work their will.

Pelosi attended the annual congressional baseball game Thursday night and an aide said she was speaking to rank-and-file members. House GOP leadership is keeping in touch with Democratic leadership as they talk to members about the TAA vote.

House Republicans privately say they could produce 100 to 120 yes votes for TAA, but sources say breaking that threshold would be nearly impossible. Republican leadership was working overtime Thursday night to squeeze out every last vote possible.

But the real problem is among Democrats. Pelosi’s close ally, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and major labor unions are whipping up opposition to the bill. DeLauro has persuaded around half of the 188 Democrats to commit to a no vote, Democratic sources said. Aides fear that Pelosi’s silence could embolden the opposition.

Estimating Democratic support for TAA is difficult at this point because leadership has not whipped the issue. One Capitol Hill Democratic insider speculated there may be only 40 to 60 Democrats who are currently prepared to back the measure, though Obama, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other top administration officials were lobbying members frantically on Thursday night.

Unless Obama can pick up dozens of additional Democratic votes, TAA likely will be defeated.

“I think Republicans are going to provide a share of their votes based upon what Republicans have done in the past, and it’s up to the Democrat leadership and the president to get Democrats on board,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who, along with Ryan, has led the pro-trade whip operation. “There has always been a coalition of Republicans and Democrats that have passed TAA, and if Democrats are not going to put up votes for TAA because they want to kill TPA, to the point the president makes, TAA is going to die. Those are the president’s words, not mine.” Democrats have long favored the government assistance program for displaced workers.

If TAA passes, on the other hand, Obama and pro-trade forces feel pretty good about their chances on fast track.

House Republicans say they have approximately 190 yes votes for Trade Promotion Authority — the fast-track bill — and Democrats have between 23 and 27 yes votes, making it likely that the measure will pass.

Thursday was filled with drama as the White House sought to tamp down a rebellion within Democratic ranks.

Early in the day, House Democrats had a visit from McDonough, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The administration officials declared that it was a “do or die” moment for TAA. Vote against it now, the officials warned, and Republicans will defund it entirely.

Yet after hearing from McDonough, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he told Obama’s top aide that it was “bullsh—” that the president can’t do anything to improve the TAA bill.

“If the president wants this whole package so desperately, if the Republicans want it so desperately, Corporate America wants it so desperately, they can do a little bit more for the workers and maybe even improve the whole thing,” DeFazio told POLITICO after the meeting.

Late Thursday, House Republicans were confident enough to bring a procedural motion to the floor that allowed Obama’s trade agenda to come up for a vote. Republicans held the vote open for longer than the allotted 15 minutes as they wrangled votes, managing to prevail on a narrow, 217-212 vote. Much of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — including its leader, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — voted no. The GOP needed Democrats to push it over the finish line.

In the end, eight Democrats voted for the rule, which is typically carried by the majority party: Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Henry Cuellar of Texas, John Delaney of Maryland, Rick Larsen of Washington State and Ron Kind of Wisconsin.

Connolly, who recently traveled with Obama to the G-7 summit in Germany, said he voted with Republicans “to keep fast track alive.”

Link to original article from Politico

Read 17086 times Last modified on Friday, 12 June 2015 11:51

Sen. Warren on TPP

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Put Trade in the Spotlight

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were united suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum.

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