Defying President Obama, Obama pleads with Dems to save fast-track trade package, House Democrats on Friday rallied to vote down legislation granting aid to workers displaced by trade, i.e., the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. Under the House rule passed on Thursday, the TAA had been packaged with fast-track authority, and a vote against either doomed the total package. House deals humiliating blow to Obama in trade fight:
An overwhelming majority of Democrats voted to sink the package in the 126-302 vote despite an impassioned plea from the president, which he delivered in person during a rare morning visit to Capitol Hill. A majority of Republicans also opposed the bill.
The vote came minutes after a dramatic floor speech by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who rebuffed lobbying by Obama to vote against the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
Pelosi noted that Democrats have traditionally backed TAA, but sided with liberals in her conference who argued a vote against the program was the only way to stop fast-track.
“If TAA slows down the fast track, I’m prepared to vote against TAA,” Pelosi said.
Other members of Pelosi’s leadership team, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Reps. James Cyburn (S.C.) and Steve Israel (N.Y.), voted “yes.”
On the GOP side, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) cast a vote in favor of TAA. Speakers cast floor votes on relatively rare occasions.
[The vote was 126 to 302.] Only 40 Democrats backed TAA, while 144 voted against it. On the GOP side, 158 Republicans voted “no,” while 86 Republicans voted “yes.”
[Roll No. 361. A rare unanimous Arizona delegation voting No: Franks, Gallego. Gosar, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, McSally, Salmon, Schweikert, Sinema]
The vote against TAA is a humiliating defeat for Obama, who had spent weeks lobbying House Democrats to support his trade agenda in the face of overwhelming opposition from liberal groups and organized labor.
Under the procedure established for considering the trade package, TAA had been packaged with fast-track authority, and a vote against either doomed the total package.
[Because of the way Friday’s votes were set up on the House floor, if the TAA bill was defeated the House was not to vote on the fast-track measure. Of course, that didn’t happen. Rules? What rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!]
In a slight surprise, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced after the TAA vote that the House would still vote on the fast-track measure, as well as a separate customs bill.
In the vote on fast-track, the measure was approved in a 219-211 vote. Twenty-eight Democrats backed fast-track, while 54 Republicans voted “no.”
[Roll No. 362. Yes: Franks, McSally, Salmon, Schweikert — No: Gallego, Gosar, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, Sinema]
Labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, lobbied Democrats to oppose TAA as part of a last-ditch effort to keep the fast-track legislation from coming up for a vote.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who spearheaded the revolt, said that the TAA measure was “underfunded and wouldn’t do enough to help displaced workers.”
“It comes down to one question: Do we support hard-working Americans or do we abandon them?” DeLauro said. “A vote for these bills is a vote against jobs and it’s a vote against wages.”
Other Democrats who oppose the fast-track bill rebuked their colleagues for opposing TAA, arguing the vote threatens to keep the assistance from being part of the final package sent to Obama.
“I refuse to put displaced workers at risk for the sake of a political tactic,” said Rep. David Price (D-N.C.).
The New York Times reports, House Rejects Trade Bill as Democrats Spurn Obama:
House Democrats rebuffed a dramatic personal appeal from President Obama on Friday, torpedoing his ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating power — and, quite likely, his chance to secure a legacy-defining trade accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.
In a remarkable rejection of a president they have resolutely backed, House Democrats voted to kill assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has stood by for four decades. By doing so, they brought down legislation granting the president trade promotion authority — the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress — before it could even come to a final vote.
“We want a better deal for America’s workers,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader who has guided the president’s agenda for two terms and was personally lobbied by Mr. Obama until the last minute.
Republican leaders tried to muster support from their own party for trade adjustment assistance, a program they have long derided as an ineffective waste of money and sop to organized labor. But not enough Republicans were willing to save the program.
Republican leaders then passed a stand-alone trade promotion bill, but that would force the Senate to take up a trade bill all over again. And without trade adjustment assistance alongside it, passing trade promotion authority in the Senate would be highly doubtful.
The Washington Post reports, House derails trade deal in a blow to Obama:
President Obama suffered a major defeat to his Pacific Rim free trade initiative Friday as House Democrats helped derail a key presidential priority despite his last-minute, personal plea on Capitol Hill.
The House voted 302 to 126 to sink a measure to grant financial aid to displaced workers, fracturing hopes at the White House that Congress would grant Obama fast-track trade authority to complete an accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
“I will be voting to slow down fast-track,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the floor moments before the vote, after keeping her intentions private for months. “Today we have an opportunity to slow down. Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for American workers.”
The dramatic defeat could sink the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping free trade and regulatory pact that Obama has called central to his economic agenda at home and his foreign policy strategy in Asia.
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Republican leaders, who had backed the president’s trade initiative, pleaded with their colleagues to support the deal or risk watching the United States lose economic ground in Asia.
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But anti-free trade Democrats pushed hard to block the financial aid plan, knowing that its defeat would also torpedo a companion measure to grant Obama fast-track authority to complete the TPP. That bill was later approved with overwhelming Republican support in what amounted to a symbolic vote because it could not move forward into law without the related worker assistance package.
The legislation is now paralyzed in the House — “stuck in the station,” as Pelosi described in her speech. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has decided to give Obama the weekend to try to coax enough Democrats into supporting the worker assistance package by bringing it up for reconsideration next Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest . . . noted that the Senate approved the fast track legislation last month after initially voting to block it.
“To the surprise of very few, another procedural snafu has emerged,” Earnest said in an attempt to play down the outcome.
The media villagers all characterize this as a defeat for President Obama. It is actually a defeat for the banksters and global corporations who wanted to become our masters under this highly secretive trade agreement. It is a victory for U.S. sovereignty of our laws, and a victory for working men and women who are standing up and saying no to becoming serfs to the corporatocracy.