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Hoyer Urges Civility Among Democrats in Trade Debate

Hoyer decried Democratic infighting on trade. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats attacking Democrats over trade is neither productive nor welcome, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday.  

At his weekly pen-and-pad briefing Tuesday, Hoyer told reporters the rancor surrounding the debate over Trade Promotion Authority, which could come up in the House as early as next week, needs to be toned down.  

He specifically discussed labor's outsized influence in pressuring members to oppose legislation that would give President Barack Obama latitude to negotiate a major trade deal with Pacific nations. The AFL-CIO in particular has threatened Democrats who support so-called fast-track authority.  

"Leader Pelosi and I have ... urged our friends in labor to have respect for the decisions of members," Hoyer said. "The Democratic Party and its members have been strong supporters of working men and women's rights to bargain collectively and organize, strong supporters of the minimum wage and unemployment insurance, strong supporters of workers generally, and I would think that that would be a major consideration in going forward in support of members."  

Hoyer also addressed the extent to which lawmakers are pressuring their colleagues, and responded to a question about a letter penned by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., that specifically named the 18 members of the House Democratic Caucus expected to vote in favor of TPA.  

"As a public service, we provide you their office numbers," Grayson wrote to potential donors as part of his 2016 Senate campaign, according to Politico . "Call one; call them all. Call as many as you want. Exercise your constitutional right to redress your grievances."  

"I think Mr. Grayson's actions are not helpful and I don't think fair to other members," Hoyer said. "Members ought to refrain from directing pressure at their colleagues. That doesn't mean their colleagues won't get pressure, but it ought not to be directed by other members."  

Hoyer said he counts himself among those who are still undecided on TPA.  

His remarks come in advance of a press event planned for Wednesday in the House Triangle, where congressional Democrats — Grayson among them — will join with prominent progressive groups to unveil "nearly two million signatures of Americans urging Congress to put the brakes on fast track."  

The Pacific deal is backed by the White House and most congressional Republicans, but backers have said the legislation will need support from pro-trade Democrats to clear the House.  

Related: Trade Fight Galvanizing the Left Could Conservatives Push TPA Over the Finish Line? The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.