The House of Representatives on Friday delivered a blow, though perhaps a temporary one, to President Barack Obama’s signature goal of strengthening ties with Asia when it defeated one measure, but approved another important to finishing a Pacific Rim trade pact.
In a dramatic vote, Obama’s own Democrats, as well as Republicans, failed to produce enough support to approve a bill that would have given aid to workers who lose their jobs as a result of U.S. trade deals with other countries. The measure was soundly rejected in a 302-126 vote.
That was quickly followed by the House’s narrow approval of a separate measure to give Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. But the legislation is stuck in the House because of the defeat Obama and House Speaker John Boehner suffered on the first vote.
A House Republican aide told reporters that Republican leaders hope to try again Tuesday to pass the worker aid portion of the bill, allowing the measure to be signed into law by Obama, but its chances were unclear.
Trading partners such as Japan have urged the U.S. Congress to act in order to help wrap up a Pacific Rim trade deal covering 40 percent of the world’s economy.
Obama had lobbied hard to win over skeptical Democrats and forged an unusual alliance with the Republicans who control Congress and made a last-ditch personal appeal to congressional Democrats to back his trade agenda on Friday.
Hours before divided lawmakers were due to vote on legislation central to his hallmark Pacific Rim trade deal, Obama arrived at Capitol Hill with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for the culmination of an intense effort to build support among Democrats over the last 24 hours.
But shortly before the doomed vote, some of Obama’s fellow Democrats signaled that the president’s efforts at persuasion had failed.
Democratic Representative Danny Davis, who represents Obama’s hometown of Chicago, said on the House floor: “I don’t want a fast track. Matter of fact, the jobs and economic development have left the communities I represent fast enough.”
Republican support was always weak for the worker aid part of the “fast-track” trade legislation and Democrats’ support eroded this week following an intensive lobbying campaign by U.S. organized labor leaders.
The AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor organization, argued that funding for the worker aid program would be insufficient.
But it also rallied support for its cause by arguing that a vote against worker aid would be the perfect tactic for stopping fast track dead in its tracks.
Fast-track authority would let lawmakers set negotiating objectives for trade deals, but restrict them to only a yes-or-no vote on the finished agreement.
Many Democrats have worried that giving Obama fast-track authority to finish the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would result in job losses in their home districts just as the United States was making economic gains that have led to a brightening jobs picture nationally.
Boehner, the top Republican, in consultation with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, is expected to weigh next steps.
For example, they could try to make some changes to the worker training program or schedule more one-on-one meetings with lawmakers to allay their concerns.
The Senate, in a strong bipartisan vote, has already approved the package of trade measures, which includes a customs enforcement bill.
House Republicans have loaded that bill down with controversial language designed to tie Obama’s hands on immigration and climate change initiatives, further complicating the entire trade fight.
Senate Democrats are expected to stand in the way of those measures.
Here are 3 winners and 3 losers from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the other leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Wednesday night in the fieriest evening of the race so far.
His presence on the stage drew fire from the other candidates, but it also seemed to change the overall tone of the debate, with more attacks, counter-attacks, and passion than was generally seen earlier in the campaign.
Here’s a (necessarily subjective!) list of the winners and losers from the fray:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Warren hit her stride right as the debate started by attacking Bloomberg for his record on the mistreatment of women, racist policies, and his tax returns. She repeatedly came back to skewer the former mayor, making herself the biggest and most notable presence in the debate. But importantly, she also continuously brought the discussion back to the issues she cares about — like expanding health care, environmental justice, and consumer protection — while getting in digs at the other candidates on the stage.
Michael Bloomberg ‘lost everything’ in Las Vegas: MSNBC analyst
Senior editor for "The Root," Jason Johnson, concluded that the biggest loser of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas Wednesday was Michael Bloomberg, but not merely because of his debate performance.
"The big new name was going to be Michael Bloomberg," he said. "This was probably the most expensive night in Vegas I've ever seen. He lost everything. This guy has spent $320 million. He had the opportunity to stand on stage, and appear to be an equal, and he looked bored. He looked disenchanted. He stumbled over obvious questions that anybody would have anticipated about sexual harassment and stop and frisk. I thought it was a bad night for him."
Pro-immigration protesters interrupt Joe Biden’s closing statement at debate
Former Vice President Joe Biden's closing statement was interrupted by protesters at Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate.
As Biden began his remarks, demonstrators began shouting about the Obama administration's record on deportations.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2020