“It was difficult to find more than a handful of House Republicans who would join with us” in opposing trade deals, Tonelson said. “We think we’ve got significantly more fertile ground. But we do have a lot of work to do because this movement’s Washington presence is also lobbying them on trade.”
So is the business community, which won’t readily cede any ground to opponents of the South Korea agreement or other free-trade deals.
“A lot of these Members said things on the campaign trail or didn’t say things on the campaign trail. From our perspective, they’re all kind of a blank slate,” said Christopher Wenk, a top trade lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber and business community have been aggressively reaching out to all of them and setting up meetings with individual Members.”
Last week, the chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers and others helped organize a trade briefing for about 75 staffers through the Republican Study Committee. The chamber has also met with Berg and another GOP freshman who has taken a high-profile, pro-trade stance: Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Texas).
“There are no better lobbyists of freshmen than Members of Congress themselves,” Wenk said, noting that the majority of freshmen are open to supporting trade.
“The bottom line is trade is back on the agenda in a major way, and we’re very excited about what’s possible on the trade front this year,” Wenk said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.