President Barack Obama and his team made a rare trip to Capitol Hill last week to personally lobby for help from House Democrats on his trade agenda. On Tuesday, top administration advisers from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will return to the halls of Congress — though this time they'll be meeting with a more select, and sympathetic, audience.
Rather than try to appeal to lawmakers who are increasingly hostile to the president's wish to negotiate a 12-nation Pacific trade deal, representatives from the White House are turning to the 28 Democrats who voted for Trade Promotion Authority to plot out next steps. Administration officials and House Democrats will specifically discuss how to overcome the roadblock put in place by the failure Friday to advance Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation, which needed to pass in order for TPA to pass.
The meeting was confirmed by multiple sources close to House Democrats who voted for TPA.
There could be more certainty by early Tuesday morning, when the meeting is scheduled to take place, as to whether the House will reconsider the failed TAA vote later in the day. The plan on Friday was to return to the matter at that time, but the House Rules Committee could decide to extend the deadline for that vote to take place.
That could be helpful to pro-trade lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, since it would buy some more time to shore up votes on TAA necessary to move TPA out of the chamber and onto the president's desk.
Democrats who support giving Obama trade promotion authority spent the weekend making calls to see if they could squeeze more TAA votes out of their colleagues. Ultimately, they discovered what they knew all along: They could pick up a few more "yeses," but they were never going to swing enough of Friday's 144 Democratic "no" votes to make a difference.
They already suffered a blow when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in the minutes before the vote was called, came to the House floor and declared she would vote against TAA to bring down TPA. An aide to a House Democrat closely involved with the pro-trade whip operation told CQ Roll Call they lost close to a dozen members from the time of her floor speech to the time of the vote.
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