On Friday, President Obama headed for Capitol Hill in an attempt to secure enough votes for passage of the Trade Promotion Authority, a fast-track trade law Obama has been pushing as a key piece of his second agenda for months. The TPA would give Obama authority to secure a multinational trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, a partnership that would include 12 nations. The number of people impacted by the partnership’s signees would be 40 percent of the world’s population, making it the largest trade deal in history.
When the time came to vote on the measure, the TPA failed by a massive margin of 302-144. The source of the opposition was from Obama’s own party with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi publicly coming out against the bill. The vast majority of Democrats voted against it and Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Gov. Lincoln Chafee have all vociferously attacked the bill. Democrats contend that the Trans Pacific Partnership would create massive outsourcing of American jobs, allow multinational corporations to challenge domestic economic regulations, tacitly accepts slavery in Vietnam and cut funds from Medicare.
Obama has had to rely on an unlikely source for votes on trade, namely his 2012 opponent’s vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, who has been vocal in his support of the trade deal. The House leadership, including Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also have vocalized support for the trade deal. Still, Republican support is not unanimous and more Democratic votes will be needed to pass the bill.
Obama faces an uphill battle. Sources have leaked to multiple media outlets that another vote is expected this week. Obama will need to get around 90 Democratic votes in a matter of a few days. Members of the Democratic caucus have stated the lobbying by the White House has been the most intense since the Affordable Care Act.
Next week is when we will likely know whether or not Obama’s largest agenda item will go down in flames or be passed.