Obama’s long weekend ahead fighting for Dems’ support on Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Obama faces a long weekend while he tries to persuade Democrats one more time to get on the bandwagon for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, handed the President a major defeat Friday, when they voted to kill the first in a series of three bills on trade authority.

Read also: What you need to know about the Colorado delegation’s votes on Obamatrade

The bill, on trade adjustment assistance (TAA), sought $700 million from Medicare funds to pay for displaced workers who lose their jobs due to the TPP deal. Democrats objected to raiding Medicare to pay for the first part of the trade deal.

Colorado’s delegation split 4-3 against the measure, with Republican Mike Coffman and Democrats Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis voting in favor, and the rest of the delegation, including Republican rural lawmakers Ken Buck and Scott Tipton voting against it.

The final vote was 126 to 302, aligning some Republicans who didn’t want to pass a bill favorable to the President with Democrats who objected to the Medicare funding piece. And those who voted against were aligned on another issue: not wanting to give the current administration fast-track authority. Asking for fast-track authority is not out of the ordinary. It has been granted by Congress eight times since 1974.

Under the rules of debate passed on Thursday, a “no” vote on the TAA would kill the entire package, so any further votes on the remaining two bills could be viewed as largely symbolic. House Republicans moved to take up those bills anyway, and both passed.

The second vote, on HR 1314, the Trade Act of 2015, squeaked through on a 219-211 vote. That got better support from Colorado’s delegation, with three Republicans – Coffman, Lamborn and Tipton – voting in favor, as did Democrat Polis.

The final bill, HR 644, which set up trade-deal enforcement, passed easily, 240 to 190. It was the only bill in the package that earned Buck’s “yes” vote. The state’s other three Republicans also voted in favor. But it got a “no” vote from Polis, DeGette and Perlmutter.

While that should have been the end of it, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, took the rare step of asking the House to reconsider its vote on the trade adjustment assistance bill. That vote must take place next week.

And that’s what will lead to the President’s long weekend. He visited Capitol Hill this morning to plead one more time with stubborn Democrats for votes on the TAA bill. Friday’s vote saw 143 Democrats voting against the TAA, so the President has a steep task in persuading up to 131 of those 143 Democrats to vote for the bill.

But Capitol Hill observers also believe Boehner will need to get more of his caucus on board as well. Only 87 Republicans voted in favor of the TAA; 156 voted against it.

Update: In our June 12 story on the vote on the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) bill, we wrote that the TAA was to be paid for with Medicare funds, a claim repeatedly made by House Democrats prior to the TAA vote on Friday.

However, a deal on Wednesday between Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, took that $700 million off the table for the assistance program. Instead, it would be paid for through “increased tax compliance.”

But the Medicare cuts are still in play. According to Roll Call, the original language, including the Medicare cuts, was left intact in the TAA bill, and the $700 million was shifted to another bill on trade preferences with Africa. That was done to avoid having to send the TAA bill back to the Senate for concurrence on the House changes.


Photo credit: John Althouse Cohen, Creative Commons, Flickr.  

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.