The House just voted down fast-track authority for the TPP, handing President Obama a stinging defeat. This happened mainly because too few Democrats voted to support it. But why? Here’s the Washington Post:
Lawmakers said the White House has pushed harder on trade than any legislative issue since the health-care reform effort during his first year. After keeping trade on the back burner, Obama joined forces with business-friendly Republicans after the midterm elections in pursuit of a rare bipartisan deal and launched a fierce effort to win support from his usual Democratic allies over the intense opposition of labor unions.
And here’s the New York Times:
A president who has long kept Congress at arm’s length may have paid a price. Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas, said Mr. Obama mustered rousing applause Friday morning as he went through the battles he had fought with fellow Democrats — on labor organizing, health care access and environmental protection. But he could not change minds.
“I wish there had been much better outreach,” Mr. Cuellar lamented.
So either Obama made this his #1 priority or else Obama barely bothered to lobby for it. I assume that eventually one narrative or the other will stick and we’ll all agree on just what Obama did.
UPDATE: Sorry, I jumped the gun. TPP is dead for now, but Obama may get another bite at the apple next week. It all depends on whether he’s able to negotiate a more liberal version of Trade Adjustment Authority to couple to the fast-track bill. The trick is appeasing Democrats sufficiently without losing too many Republican votes. Could be a busy weekend.