645X363 - Full Sharing - Additional videos are suggested upon completion

President Obama's trade agenda survived a bad scare in the House on Thursday when the GOP rule governing debate for the package narrowly survived a 217-212 vote.

Thirty-four Republicans voted against the rule, while eight Democrats backed it.

ADVERTISEMENT
A handful of pro-trade Democrats withheld their votes, watching the tally closely from the floor. Then, when it was apparent Republicans would not be able to pass the typically partisan measure on its own, they threw their votes in favor all at once.

The tight vote foreshadows the challenge GOP leaders will face Friday, when the House votes on two critical pieces of Obama’s trade agenda: fast-track authority and a separate bill offering help to workers displaced by trade. 

GOP opposition to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, as well as to fast-track, led Republicans to oppose their party’s rule.

Votes on House rules are tests of party discipline. Democrats traditionally vote against rules brought up by the House GOP.

House Republicans could only lose 26 of their own for the rule to pass without help from Democrats. Had the rule failed, the House would not have been able to debate and vote on the trade bills.

The eight Democrats who saved the trade package were Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerWhiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting Russia, China eclipse US in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success MORE (Ore.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyOvernight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade Dem plans amendment to block Trump from using military bases to house undocumented minors separated from parents Politicians, media explode over White House aide's comments MORE (Va.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), John Delaney (Md.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindLobbying world Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus Three Republicans join climate change caucus MORE (Wis.) and Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenOvernight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes House passes 5-year reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration MORE (Wash.).

Republicans have repeatedly had problems with controversial legislation under Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? MORE (R-Ohio).

Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona GOP tinkers with election rules with an eye on McCain's seat Quiet jockeying for McCain seat angers Republicans McSally tells GOP colleagues she'll run for Arizona Senate MORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, earlier on Thursday predicted the rule might be in trouble because conservatives were unhappy with the way the bills were structured.

“I think the rule vote is going to be very, very telling. I think there are a lot of members of the Freedom Caucus that may not be supportive of the rule,” Salmon said in an interview with The Hill's Molly K. Hooper.

Thursday’s drama was reminiscent of the House nearly failing to advance the so-called “cromnibus” legislation to fund the federal government in December.

The rule for the $1.1 trillion spending package advanced by just one vote after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) lobbied conservatives to change their votes. No Democrats swooped in to help with that vote even though many of them supported the underlying legislation.

GOP leaders and the White House for weeks have been lobbying to win members over for fast-track, which would allow Obama to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes.

Peter Schroeder contributed.

This story was updated at 5:27 p.m.