Updated 7:52 p.m. | President Barack Obama — and Senate Democratic leaders — are working to resurrect his trade agenda, according to aides on the Hill and in the administration.
Obama met with 10 Senate Democrats after a humiliating defeat on the Senate floor for one of Obama's top remaining priorities for his presidency — albeit a defeat that the White House is gamely calling a "procedural SNAFU." "The President convened a meeting today with Senate Democrats, including members who have publicly indicated their support for advancing a TPA bill, to discuss a path forward for this legislation," an administration official told CQ Roll Call. "The President reiterated his view, which he has shared in numerous similar conversations with members over the past several weeks, that passing TPA is an important step toward finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership - the most progressive trade agreement in our history, which levels the playing field for American workers and puts in place new, high-standards environmental, labor, and human rights protections."
Separately, Senate Democrats led by Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Charles E. Schumer have floated a proposal to Republicans, through Schumer, that could provide an option for a way forward to pass the so-called "fast track" authority, a precursor to up-or-down votes on major trade deals with Asia and Europe.
A Senate aide said the idea would be for a standalone vote on Schumer's currency proposal, followed by full consideration of everything except the currency piece.
That wouldn't necessarily solve everything — Republicans have other objections besides just the currency piece — but it presents at least a plausible starting point to getting fast track back on track.
An aide to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., earlier told CQ Roll Call there are enough Democrats prepared to vote to pass a fast-track bill if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agrees to a plan that would lead to all four trade-related bills passed by the Finance Committee to pass by the Senate.
Per a White House readout, the Democrats who attended the meeting included Michael Bennet of Colorado, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Patty Murray of Washington, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Warner of Virginia and Wyden.
Carper was the only one to actually vote to support the president Tuesday. The White House readout said the senators reiterated their support for the underlying fast-track bill.
McConnell warned earlier Tuesday that attaching currency enforcement would effectively kill the underlying bill because the president would veto it. He has offered separate votes on the Senate floor of the various trade proposals, although that's not the same as assuring their passage — something he can't do on his own.
The White House, however, did not issue a veto threat when asked about the issue yesterday or today.
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