Updated 1:57 p.m. | Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at her weekly news conference Thursday she has let Speaker John A. Boehner know he needs to produce 200 votes on the GOP side of the aisle to pass Trade Promotion Authority.
"The speaker should be able to deliver 200 votes," Pelosi said. "I don't know why they want this so much, they have the majority, why there's even a question that they can deliver the votes. You'll have to speak to them." She continued: "200 votes. That would be a good, round number. A little safe number in case somebody doesn't show up that day."
Pelosi also said it's Boehner's job, not hers, to get the votes for so-called fast-track authority to allow President Barack Obama to negotiate a trade agreement with certain transpacific nations — even though it has become the White House's No. 1 legislative priority and there's chatter that Democratic leaders are under pressure to help the administration do some heavy lifting.
"It's his responsibility," she said. "Every time we had a bill under my speakership, you said it was a test of my leadership. It's a test of his leadership. It's his responsibility."
Earlier this week, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said he and other Democratic leaders had not begun to formally count votes on TPA; Pelosi suggested that was still the case Thursday, though she acknowledged there would probably be "a dozen and a half" Democrats voting yes, consistent with what's been reported by various news organizations.
She wouldn't say how she planned to vote.
When it was Boehner's turn at the microphone in his own news conference later Thursday, the Ohio Republican wasn't interested in offering a direct response to Pelosi's pronouncements.
"I'm not the whip, so I don't get into vote counts," he said of whether he had 200 GOP votes locked up, or if he would be able to do so. "But we're working."
He said he was continuing to meet with members and spoke to the president on Wednesday.
"He's got some work to do, too," Boehner said of Obama and his own whip obligations.
The Ohio Republican didn't want to dignify Pelosi's implication that Democrats would have to fight tooth-and-nail against a pay-for in the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill that needs to get passed alongside TPA.
The pending TAA measure, designed to help U.S. workers displaced by trade agreements, would derive much of its funding from sequester cuts to Medicare, something House progressives have already said they won't support (though they won't be supporting TPA, either).
"We're asking for a better pay-for so that the same communities that we're trying to help in terms of trade adjustment are not hurt by taking the money out of Medicare. We think that's a really bad choice.
"Certainly we can afford a few hundred million — not billion, hundred million dollars — to help communities and workers who are affected by the trade adjustment," she continued. "It has to be paid for, let's find a pay-for. Let's not take it at a place that hurts the very people that we're trying to help."
Boehner stiffened when asked by a reporter to comment.
"Did Ms. Pelosi also say that she and I and our teams are working to resolve that issue?" Boehner cut in. "We are, just so you know."
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