Pelosi, Hoyer cautious on trade

Pelosi, Hoyer cautious on trade
© Greg Nash

House Democratic leaders stopped short of full-throated support for President Obama's trade agenda in separate media appearances on Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse unanimously passes Music Modernization Act Hoyer declines to endorse call for leadership shake-up if Dems lose House Trump taps USTR's Gerrish as acting head of Export-Import Bank MORE (D-Md.) each suggested that they were maintaining a wait-and-see attitude on the issue, even as the White House ramps up efforts to build support for trade among Democrats.

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"I’m optimistic always that we can find a path to yes, but we have to change some attitudes,” Pelosi said Tuesday on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."

Ahead of Tuesday night's State of the Union address, she said Democrats still have a lot of questions about how pending trade agreements can help U.S. workers.

“What I say to my own people is, the more we look willing to cooperate, the more we might be able to bring them over to prioritizing America's workers," she said.

She also argued that more consultation by the administration on the trade pacts it is negotiating could help win over support.

Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday that "the division within our party is nothing new on this issue."

In 2011, majorities of House Democrats voted against trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia despite the support of the Obama administration. 

"We're going to have a robust discussion on this,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer, who is seen as a pro-trade Democrat, didn't explicitly say he would back the White House's efforts. 

But he noted that he has supported trade deals in the past because they're good for the economy.

Still, he argued that U.S. trade policy must protect the environment, workers and consumers. 

Pelosi expressed concern that slamming the door on trade deals could hamper Democratic progress on their priorities.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office has said that they have held more than 1,600 meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and is open to more discussions to steer lawmakers toward supporting the trade agenda. 

Mike Lillis contributed.