House leaders of both parties said Thursday they're hopeful Congress could pass legislation giving President Barack Obama authority to negotiate his long-sought Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
They differed on whether Republicans or Democrats are responsible for making sure such a deal takes place. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said a bill to grant Obama trade promotion authority would have "strong support from House Republicans."
But he also said congressional Democrats would have to compromise and Obama would have to pressure them to do so — a signal there could be enough GOP holdouts that the minority party would need to make up for the shortfall.
"We're going to need some bipartisan support," he told reporters at his weekly news briefing Thursday. "[Republicans will] do our part, but the president must do his part, as well."
Boehner added that the proposed trade deal would be "a heavy lift."
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., countered at her conference that Republicans had a responsibility to work with Democrats to come up with a better TPA framework.
"[If] they have 218 Republican votes ... I don't think they'll pay too much attention to many of our concerns. I don't know if they have that," said Pelosi. "If they don't have 218 votes, we have a further opportunity to say, 'Where are some areas that we can come together.'"
Both appeared before reporters in back-to-back news conferences as the House Ways and Means Committee was slogging through its markup of the TPA deal negotiated by Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and the chairman and ranking member of Senate Finance, Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Democrats in the House are deeply wary of forging ahead on trade, especially under the proposed legislation's framework, which they say doesn't do nearly enough to protect American workers or address outstanding environmental, labor and human rights concerns.
As the measure advances, party infighting could get uglier, with senior Democrats torn between wanting to deliver a win for Obama, who supports the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan blueprint, and feeling compelled to reflect the very loud and vocal opposition in the rank and file.
Pelosi, an ally of progressives in her caucus and a liaison between her members and the White House, reiterated her strong desire to "get to 'yes'" on TPA.
She said she hoped the substitute amendment sponsored by Ways and Means ranking member Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., would be adopted during the panel's ongoing markup of the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan deal, which would make the measure much more palatable for Democrats.
"He is just so eager for us to come to a 'yes' on this, as am I," Pelosi said of Levin. "And we're not just going to give up, because we think it would be a missed opportunity ... to do something special."
Asked if the Levin amendment's adoption was necessary to win her support for TPA, Pelosi wouldn't tip her hand. Asked what would happen if the amendment was rejected or not made in order during the markup, she replied that there was always room for later negotiations prior to the measure reaching the chamber floor.
"I'm not giving up," she said.
Ultimately, Ryan ruled Levin's amendment ineligible for consideration.
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