Commerce secretary: Dozens of Dems back Obama on trade

There are “dozens” of Democratic lawmakers in the House and the Senate who support granting President Obama new authority to fast-track negotiations on a pair of major trade deals, Commerce Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerMichelle Obama officiated Chicago wedding: report Election Countdown: Trump plans ambitious travel schedule for midterms | Republicans blast strategy for keeping House | Poll shows Menendez race tightening | Cook Report shifts Duncan Hunter's seat after indictment Former Obama officials launch advocacy group aimed at Trump's foreign policy MORE said Thursday.

“I've been talking to dozens of our Democratic leaders, both in the House and the Senate, who have an open mind and understand the reason that we need fast track and we need these trade agreements is to get market access for our businesses, to continue to be able to export into all these countries,” Pritzker said during an appearance on CNBC's “Squawk Box.”

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The president has been pushing members of his own party to embrace the legislation, which would limit Congress to a simple yes-or-no vote on a final deal. That would give Obama greater leverage in the negotiations, where partner countries have expressed concern that Congress could try to alter a deal after terms have been settled.

But many leading Democrats have expressed reservations, saying they thought the free trade pacts would help business but hurt American workers. Organized labor has lobbied aggressively against the bill. 

Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroCongress needs to bring family and medical leave policies into the 21st century Push for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 Gillibrand offers to 'sit down' with Trump to discuss family leave MORE (D-Conn.) said Tuesday that another free trade agreement would have a “devastating impact” on the country.

“My colleagues and I will strongly oppose this effort because it makes it even easier for corporations to send American jobs overseas, undermine our wages by forcing Americans to compete with Vietnamese workers who make 56 cents an hour,” she said

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the legislation needs at least 50 Democratic votes to pass. Cabinet officials, including Pritzker, have divided up around 80 Democratic lawmakers who are seen as trade-friendly for personalized lobbying efforts.