Updated 3:22 p.m. | The House narrowly passed Trade Promotion Authority Thursday — the first step of many to resurrect President Barack Obama's trade agenda after his own party torpedoed a combined bill last week.
The chamber voted 218-208 on TPA, which will give him the latitude to negotiate a 12-nation Pacific trade deal sought by most Republicans and a small number of Democrats.
House Passes Trade Promotion Authority Bill
The bill now heads to the other side of the Rotunda, where the Senate will have to pass it a second time before the two chambers engage in a process of volleying back and forth several other amended bills and legislative language, including Trade Adjustment Assistance and an amended trade-preferences bill that extends the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The House and Senate will also ultimately have to reconcile two versions of a customs bill. The House passed TPA on June 12, 219-211, but because a rule governing floor debate stipulated TPA could not advance to the president's desk without passage of TAA, Democrats sank TAA to slow down the process, forcing the chamber to hold another vote on TPA by itself Thursday.
Boehner Expects Amended Trade Bill Next Week
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who earlier this year was tapped to lead a new group on party messaging called the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, voted last week for TAA, though not TPA, and said Thursday he expected Democrats would eventually rally to pass TAA with TPA moving forward.
"I cannot imagine many of my Democratic colleagues, knowing that TPA will pass, voting against TAA," Israel told reporters after the vote. "That is the quintessential cutting of our noses to spite our faces. And it's not cutting off our noses, it's cutting off the noses of working people who need trade adjustment assistance."
He had no comment for Pelosi's decision last week to vote against TAA to block advancement of TAA, nor would he respond to her pronouncement at an earlier press conference that, "I don't see a path right now for TAA."
No matter the outcome, Israel just said he hoped members would move on soon from the heated rhetoric and intraparty squabbles.
"I think everybody understands, just as a matter of politics going forward, that we can't continue to drive a narrative about Democratic House members disagreeing with our Democratic president," he said. "I'm in charge of figuring out what our message should be, a message that is about a process which is dividing House Democrats with a Democratic president, that's not a good message. So we need to put the period at the end of this sentence and move on to another topic."
There is a lot left to do with a small margin for error, with outside groups advocating opposition to TPA with increasing volume and intensity. Labor and progressive organizations are questioning pro-trade Democrats' ideological purity and threatening to find primary challengers for those who defect from their party's leadership.
During the vote, members huddled on the floor and watched the board as results came in.
Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who has been leading the Republican effort to pass Obama's trade agenda, held court with colleagues, among them members of leadership and Democrats — those who support TPA, such as Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and those vehemently opposed, such as Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J.
New Democrat Coalition Chairman Ron Kind, D-Wis., who has been the Obama administration's Democratic point-person on trade inside the House, stood with ally Mike Quigley, D-Ill., as the clock ticked down and the votes poured in.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who has led the progressive effort to bring down the trade agenda, counted votes with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and leadership staff. Pelosi stunned colleagues last week when she came to the House floor to announce her position she'd long kept secret, and went a step further and said Democrats should vote against TPA as a tactical move to block TPA from advancing — exactly what Obama asked members not to do.
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