A group of House Democrats sat down with President Obama for two hours Thursday and hashed out their lingering concerns about global trade.
About 30 members of the New Democrat Coalition sat around a table in the White House’s Cabinet Room and peppered Obama with questions ranging from environmental and labor protections to investor-state dispute issues.
Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerry ConnollyLawmakers condemn Trump for attack on John Lewis Dem boycotts of inauguration grow House bill would sanction individuals involved in election tampering MORE (D-Va.), one of the few Democratic proponents of the president’s trade agenda, called the meeting a “tour de force” where “we had a dialogue with the president.”
“He answered every single question. … It was very compelling, he was on his game,” Connolly said.
“He made a strong and cogent case for the TPA and the TPP, he rebutted every single critique, respectfully, as the lawyer and professor he is.”
Connolly said the president vowed that if any of the members faced political challenges, he would be there to support them in their districts.
"That commitment matters, and what he said, you could see for some members that it was very important to hear that," he said.
The promises of campaign help were so impassioned that "we started getting out our appointment calendars,” Connolly said.
Last week, the House and Senate trade committees each approved trade promotion authority (TPA), or fast-track, bills that are expected to get floor time in May.
Fast-track would speed trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress on an up-or-down vote, with no amendments allowed.
Connolly said that while not all members at the meeting are sold on the trade agenda, it was difficult to leave without being more “favorably disposed.”
“I think that was valuable to have a spectrum of opinions,” he said.
Connolly said now is the time to start whipping votes, to see who can be persuaded and bring the measure over the finish line.
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