© Francis Rivera
With the Democratic Party fractured on trade, House Republicans are going on offense.
They’re attacking Democrats for scuttling a trade package Friday that was backed by both President Obama and GOP leadership. And they're circulating a spate of negative headlines blaming Democrats for derailing what could be one of the last big, bipartisan legislative achievements before 2016 politics dominates the agenda.
While Democrats blocked a workers-aid bill that’s critical to the trade package, Republicans nonetheless found reason to celebrate: Most Republicans and nearly 30 Democrats banded together to narrowly pass fast-track legislation that would grant Obama broader authority to complete a major Pacific trade deal.
Without the workers-aid bill, known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), fast-track can’t be sent to Obama’s desk. But GOP leaders took a victory lap anyway just moments after the vote, saying it was up to Obama to get the trade package to the finish line.
“We made it clear we’re not just gonna shut this thing down because the president can’t deliver on his side,” Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe GOP's post-1/6 playbook is clear — and it's dangerous House GOP seek to block Biden from reopening Palestinian mission in Jerusalem Hillicon Valley — Biden signs telecom security bill MORE (R-La.) told a large gaggle of reporters in the Speaker’s lobby just off the House floor.
Winning more votes for TAA "is up to the president to see if he can overcome the strong opposition from labor bosses and actually deliver on something that’s gonna get our country back in the game and be competitive with countries that are cutting deals with China right now.”
Minutes later, Scalise joined Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) near the Will Rogers statue for an impromptu news conference, where Republicans kept up the pressure. The House will vote again on TAA as early as Tuesday.
Ryan, the GOP’s point man on trade, said he was “proud" of House Republicans and the 28 Democrats who “kept their word” and voted for fast-track, also called trade promotion authority (TPA).
“Now the president has some work to do yet to do in his party to compete this process. This isn’t over yet,” Ryan said. “And we hope they can get together and make sure that we finish this, so America is back leading.”
There were no similar press conferences from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or other anti-trade Democrats, though Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) did field questions from reporters after the vote.
“This is not about the president,” DeLauro said. “This is about coming to a conclusion about what it means for their communities."
Tags Steve Scalise