Democrats voted overwhelmingly Friday to derail giving the President “fast-track” authority to conduct high-stakes Trans-Pacific trade talks, rejecting a personal plea from Barack Obama,
The vote reduces the chances for a sweeping trade pact, though much political wrangling is still to do.
The 302-126 vote may derail Obama's quest to have the Trans-Pacific Partnership be one of the twin pillars of his presidential legacy, along with Obamacare.
Friday’s vote likely just sets the stage for another round of congressional wrangling and another vote, perhaps as early as next week. A new vote might include measures to assist workers displaced by the trade pact combined with fast-track authority, in a classic quid-pro-quo our elected officials are known for.
A little pork for key voters goes a long way in DC.
Republicans overwhelmingly backed giving the President fast-track authority to negotiate deals, but Mr. Obama had to make a rare, last-minute trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to woo reluctant Democrats.
The President, who has a frosty relationship with Congress, alternately begged and threatened Democrats opposed to granting him absolute power on trade. Many Democrats regard freer trade as responsible for the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs.
“Basically the President tried to both guilt people and then impugn their integrity,” said Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat who strongly opposes fast track authority.
Even Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who has loyally backed the President for years, turned against Obama on the sweeping trade authority.
“Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for America’s workers,” Ms. Pelosi said, despite not even knowing the precise deal on the table thanks to the Obama administration's fanatical secrecy around the pact.
The President signaled his worry that the closed door meetings weren't enough to secure his further increase in power as he returned to the White House in his armoured limousine.
“I don’t think you ever nail anything down around here,” he said.
The TPP trade deal is widely regarded as a gift to loyal corporate supporters of the Obama presidency. The few details that have emerged show both large corporations and foreign governments benefiting, with little to no regard paid to the impact on American families and workers.
There will likely be more votes on the deal in the coming weeks as the Obama administration seeks to ram through its last piece of notable legislation before its term expires next year.