Obama under pressure to beef up Democratic support for trade

AP News
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Posted: Apr 30, 2015 5:25 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican leaders say GOP votes alone won't pass trade legislation sought by President Barack Obama and are urging the White House to put more pressure on reluctant Democrats to lend their support.

Obama on Thursday met with members of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of moderate lawmakers who tend to back trade policies.

Obama is seeking negotiating authority to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific partnership trade deal. The legislation would give Obama congressional direction on what to include in the agreement. Once completed, Congress could only approve or reject the deal, not amend it.

Liberals and labor unions are vigorously opposed to giving Obama such fast-track authority because they fear that the trade deal would cost American jobs and lower environmental standards.

"There'll be strong Republican support for trade promotion authority," House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday. "Another point you should keep in mind is that every Democrat leader in the House and Senate are opposed to giving the president what he's asking for. The president needs to step up to his game in terms of garnering more support amongst Democrats, especially here in the House."

Obama has been beefing up his arguments for the deal, appearing on liberal-leaning MSNBC to make his case and promoting it this week during his meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed Boehner's prodding, noting that Obama has been steadily lobbying for the legislation.

"Let me point out the irony of Republicans campaigning very aggressively to win a majority in both houses of Congress so that they could advance their policy agenda, and then three months later, turn around to all of you and asking what the president's going to do to help them get their work done," he said.

Next week, Obama will travel to Portland, Oregon, to argue for his trade policy at Nike headquarters. Oregon is home to Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and one of the sponsors of the negotiating authority the president seeks.

Republican leaders and the White House have been coy about describing how many votes they may need to succeed in the House.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is handling the legislation, predicted Thursday that the legislation would ultimately pass but said it would take Democratic votes. He wouldn't say how many.

The last time Congress passed such negotiating authority was in 2002, when it obtained only 25 Democratic votes in the 435-member House.