Boehner urges Obama to take fast-track authority appeal on the road

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is urging President Obama to hit the road to drum up support for a trade promotion authority (TPA) bill opposed by many Democrats. 

Boehner, who, along with other Republicans, has criticized the president for using campaign-style speeches to push Democratic priorities, challenged Obama to use that same tactic to hawk the need for fast-track authority, an issue where he clearly doesn't have wholehearted Democratic support.

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“If the president means what he says about trade promotion authority, I think it’s time for him to pull out all the stops," Boehner said Thursday. 

"Now after five years in office, we know how the president can be when he’s serious about something. He hits the road, uses his bully pulpit, and he takes his case to the American people," he said. 

“So if the president is serious in his commitment to getting this important bipartisan legislation passed, he’ll do the same on this issue. And we’re hopeful that we can pass that bill this year.”

Senate Republicans on Thursday also urged the White House and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to fully engage with lawmakers to get a bill passed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the floor on Thursday to urge Obama to start talking more about the issue or risk the failure of the bipartisan bill.

“We need the president to get involved,” McConnell said. "We need him to step up for American workers and increased exports by bringing his party on board with the trade promotion bill that was introduced just last week.”

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who co-sponsored the bill, was among several Republicans who complained that Froman did not appear before the panel at its first hearing on the issue since legislation was introduced a week ago.

Hatch said that renewing TPA is "not an issue where the president can lead from behind."

The Obama administration is seeking authority that would smooth congressional passage of any trade deals that reach Capitol Hill.

Under the authority, Congress would take an up-or-down vote and not have the ability to change the agreements. 

The United States is negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other Asia-Pacific and Latin American nations as well as a massive deal with the 28-nation European Union, which is still in the early stages. 

House Democrats have said that Froman and other White House officials, including Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, have picked up the pace of talks in recent weeks and are asking them for their support. 

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker also has been out front on the importance of global trade to the U.S. economy. 

The USTR's office said it's working with both parties to build bipartisan support for the legislation. 

Still, there is a mix of Democrats and Republicans who have expressed opposition to a fast-track bill. 

House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) has not signed onto the TPA measure and is urging his colleagues to press for more detailed provisions in TPA to ensure that Congress is more deeply involved in all phases of the trade talks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this week that he is not sure yet about the bill getting floor time even if Finance approves it. 

Reid said "there's a lot of controversy" around the bill and that he's "going to see how that plays out with my caucus and with the Senate."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a bill co-sponsor, argued on Thursday that the bill does respond to the massive changes in global trade since the last TPA bill was written in 2002. That authority expired in 2007. 

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a former trade representative and member of the Finance committee, said he is confident that the White House will get more involved in shaping the TPA bill because there is not choice but for Obama to play a role.