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Boehner: Trade vote a 'bump in the road'

Boehner: Trade vote a 'bump in the road'
© Greg Nash

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Republicans jockey for top GOP spot on House Foreign Affairs Committee McMorris Rodgers won't run for GOP leadership MORE (R-Ohio) on Wednesday downplayed the Senate's rejection of a critical trade bill a day earlier as "a little bump in the road."

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"Obviously, I'm still optimistic the Senate will figure out how to deal with this. They had a little bump in the road over there," BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Republicans jockey for top GOP spot on House Foreign Affairs Committee McMorris Rodgers won't run for GOP leadership MORE said at a news conference.

"I think there is a majority in the House and the Senate for giving this president trade promotion authority, and I'm hopeful the Senate will act soon," he continued. "When the Senate does, I hope we will act shortly thereafter."

Senate Democrats dealt President Obama a major blow on Tuesday when they voted to block stand-alone legislation giving Obama "fast-track" authority to get major trade deals done. Democrats, led by Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress Democrats have a Puerto Rican problem Dem Susie Lee defeats Danny Tarkanian to retain Nevada House seat MORE (D-Nev.), demanded that the fast-track bill be combined with other pieces of trade legislation, a move Republicans opposed.

For now, it appears House leaders will let the Senate work through its differences on trade before taking up their own bill.

Before Boehner addressed reporters, Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonUS firm goes on lobbying blitz in fight with Angola Trump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally House conservatives want ethics probe into Dems' handling of Kavanaugh allegations MORE (R-Ga.) briefed House Republicans on the Senate's efforts to bring back the trade bill for another vote. A member of the Finance Committee, Isakson, too, characterized Tuesday's failed vote as a bump in the road, sources in the closed-door meeting said.

Even Democratic opponents of the fast-track bill are acknowledging that Senate leaders will likely find a way to move the measure through the upper chamber.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee who recently voted against the Trade Promotion Authority bill, predicted the Senate will find a path forward, but lamented that GOP leaders are focusing on trade in lieu of issues like infrastructure and highway funding, which congressional Democrats are pushing.

"They'll probably find a way to get this through at some point," said Crowley, who's also vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "But the real question I have is: why do we have to do this now? Why can't we do a jobs bill and infrastructure bill?"

House GOP leaders, however, didn't waste an opportunity to hammer Senate Democrats for filibustering the fast-track legislation. Only one Democrat voted with Republicans to open debate on the bill.

"They abandoned their president yesterday," said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

— Mike Lillis contributed to this report.