The path to winning TAA, take two

President Obama and Republican leaders working together to advance trade reflects democracy at its best: our elected officials setting aside partisanship to advance principles they hold dear. Obama worked Congress harder than he has on any issue, yet came up with half a loaf in his quest to obtain the trade promotion authority (TPA) that is essential to concluding Pacific and European trade deals vital to America's prosperity and leadership.

House Democrats' revolt against Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), normally a liberal favorite, presents a serious challenge, but also offers an opportunity for further Republican leadership.

There are at least five possible options to making TPA a reality, most of them highly unlikely.

1. Delink TPA and TAA. Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerShooting at Ohio vigil leaves 1 dead, 5 wounded, sheriff says Boehner: Mass shootings 'embarrassing our country' Boehner to NBC's Chuck Todd: 'You're a s---' for question about seeking office again MORE (R-Ohio) could change the rule linking TPA and TAA, allowing them to proceed separately. However, this would require the House passing TPA again and, more problematically, a Senate revote. Given that 14 of the 62 votes for passage in the Senate were from Democrats, this option is unlikely to be a credible solution.


Boehner's prompt call for a revote provides other pathways to removing the TAA obstacle.

2. Negotiations with House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult Senators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision MORE (D-Calif.). This would be worse for Republicans than passing the current TAA themselves. It would also require a problematic revote in the Senate. Hence, this is highly unlikely.

3. Negotiations with the Freedom Caucus. While doing so might ease passage of TAA with Republican votes, it would likely be impossible to pass in the Senate. This, too, is unlikely.

4. House Democrats reverse on TAA. Friday's vote by many Democrats against TAA reflects members prioritizing their own electoral future by avoiding the wrath of unions and the possibility of being accused of voting for Medicare cuts (even tough Boehner acquiesced to fixing TAA's alleged Medicare "pay-for").

The White House sounded a note of optimism, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest citing the fact that support for workers impacted by trade has been a policy Democrats "have strongly supported in the past," and suggesting, "This is the hallmark of a legislative procedural snafu." Republicans signaled that it was up to Democrats to address the passage of TAA. If these statements are anything other than posturing or buying time, they seem optimistic, perhaps deliriously so.

Democrats voted against TAA primarily to stop TPA. The underlying facts remain and the union pressure is expected to continue.

Perhaps persuasion can add additional Democratic support to the 40 brave members who did so on Friday, but the chances that Democrats would provide the nearly 100 additional votes needed for TAA passage became even more remote with presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE's weekend criticism.

Democrats who proved willing to desert Obama, apparently seeing him as a lame-duck, now have the cover of their presumptive future leader.

Buckling to increased pressure from the left to come out against Obama's trade push, Clinton called for Obama to work with Pelosi, implying the current deal did not meet "high standards" and was not the "strongest possible deal." In doing so, she showed that she lacks the courage of either her husband, who championed NAFTA, or Republican candidates like Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), who came out in support of TPA despite criticisms from the right.

5. House Republicans reverse on TAA. Conservatives acknowledge the fact that even though trade benefits the country as a whole, some dislocation results, hence the logic for TAA. Yet, as currently structured, the TAA program is criticized as ineffective, wasteful and duplicative of other support for the unemployed.

If Republicans weigh all the factors now at stake, there is justification for voting for TAA. Those opposing TAA are already on record as doing so. Republicans would have accepted TAA if there were enough Democratic votes to pass it.

If only those Republicans who supported TPA voted for TAA, treating it as a conditional precedent for the TPA they seek, TAA would pass and TPA would proceed. Perhaps following the Senate's lead and combining TPA and TAA may be the most palatable path to doing so.

Republicans having to provide the lion's share of the votes to pass TAA is not their first choice, but it seems the most likely — perhaps the only realistic path — to advancing the trade agenda so essential to America's economic future and preservation of its global leadership.

The political pragmatism that this would exhibit — in stark contrast to Democrats being beholden to their progressive fringe — would stand the party well for years to come.

Kennedy served in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007. He leads George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and is chairman of the Economic Club of Minnesota and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.