White House Seeks Democratic Support for Trade
January 20, 2015
CQ Roll Call
The president is expected to lay out the case for trade as a boost to the U.S. economy tonight but some Democrats say he won’t sway them from opposition. The National Farmers Union says lawmakers should proceed with caution on trade agreements.
White House Woos Democrats on Trade. Several House Democrats opposed to Congress’ giving President Barack Obama trade promotion authority, also known as fast track authority, say the administration has begun sounding out their colleagues on the issue.
“The White House has certainly been active and I expect they will be even more active in their whip effort with House Democrats. I expect that there will be a concentration on members that the White House believes that they can potentially convince to support fast track,” Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois said during a press call this morning. “I’ve heard from my colleagues [who] have received a lot of attention recently from the White House.”
Lipinski and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Robert C. Scott of Virginia, Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania say they hope to counter those efforts. They say they are unlikely to be swayed by anything the president says in his State of the Union speech tonight.
They were joined by Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, who said segments of agriculture have generally fared well under trade agreements. He is concerned about broader and potentially negative effects on the U.S. economy. Agriculture groups generally see promise in a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement if Japan and to a lesser extent, Canada, drop tariffs and other protections for selected agricultural goods.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said the administration believes it can make the case for trade.
“Our trade agenda is about supporting jobs through expanding Made in America exports. TPP will be the most progressive trade agreement in history, breaking new ground on labor and environmental protections,” a spokesperson said.
DeLauro is leading opposition among liberal and labor-union Democrats to defeat trade promotion authority and a possible 12-nation Trans-Pacific trade treaty. DeLauro and other Democrats say Congress would give up the ability to revise a trade agreement under fast-track authority although the legislation can set parameters for protecting environmental, labor and food safety standards. Under trade promotion authority, Congress votes to accept or reject the final trade agreement.
Farm Group Questions Trade. Johnson, of the National Farmers Union, said his Democratic-leaning farm group is concerned about the negotiating process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the effects of trade on the U.S. economy. He noted that the United States is running an overall trade deficit.
“Fast track is one thing. It seems to me people need to be able to look at what is in the agreement itself before they can make a judgment before they can say they support it,” Johnson said, noting that the NFU voted last year to oppose fast-track authority.
The lawmakers on the call said there are no assurances that the United States will enforce standards even if they are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Scott, ranking member of the Education and Workforce Committee, said the administration would have to show that the agreement differed significantly from prior trade pacts in terms of enforcement.
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