President Obama was handed a horrific defeat Friday in Congress as his own Party deserted him to thwart trade legislation for which he had personally lobbied and which he viewed as a keystone of his second term legacy.
The vote, which was on a measure crucial to passage of the legislation, wasn’t even close, as the House rejected a trade adjustment assistance (TAA) package by 302-126.
The final “fast track” bill probably cannot pass both houses of Congress without the TAA package – which would help workers displaced by trade. The House did pass the fast track bill after rejecting TAA. But now the legislation must go back to the Senate, and without TAA, it is unlikely to succeed there.
It’s not clear what the future is for the trade bill or whether the House can pass TAA if it tries again. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest today said the White House would continue to press Democrats for TAA. And in a rare departure from common practice, he commended House Speaker Boehner, saying it was important to “give credit where credit is due.”
Only 40 Democrats backed TAA while 144 voted against it. On the GOP side, 158 Republicans voted “no” while 86 Republicans voted “yes,” according to The Hill.
The result undermines the White House’s frequently lodged contention that Republicans opposed Obama solely because of politics or because they hate him. What it suggests, rather, is that he doesn’t spend enough time building relationships and creating IOUs on either side of the aisle.
The president made a rare appearance on Capitol Hill Friday morning to implore Democrats to support the legislation. He reportedly asked them to “play it straight” on the TAA measure, which is exactly what they did not do.
Instead, Democrats opposed TAA for the purpose of using the vote to sink prospects for the underlying fast track bill.
A key moment came when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi abandoned Obama and told the House she would vote against TAA.
“I will be voting to slow down fast-track,” she said. “Today we have an opportunity to slow down. Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for American workers.”