For now, fast track trade pact authority for President Obama is off the table as House Democrats folded and Republicans didn't have the votes.
Hours after President Obama made a dramatic, personal appeal for support, House Democrats on Friday thwarted his push to expand trade negotiating power — and quite likely his chance to secure a legacy-defining accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.
In a remarkable blow to a president they have backed so resolutely, House Democrats voted to end assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has supported for four decades. That move effectively scuttled legislation granting the president trade promotion authority — the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress.
“We want a better deal for America’s workers,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, who has guided the president’s agenda for two terms and was personally lobbied by Mr. Obama until the last minute.
The vote that prevented the president from obtaining trade promotional authority now imperils the more sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement with 11 other nations along the Pacific Ocean that affects 40 percent of the global economy on goods ranging from running shoes to computers.
“They have taken their own child hostage,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, adding, “Does it hurt the president? Of course it hurts the president, but it hurts America more.”
The Democratic revolt left Republican leaders trying to summon support from their own party for trade adjustment assistance, a program they have long derided as a waste of money and a concession to organized labor. Eighty-six Republicans voted for the program, more than double the 40 Democrats who supported it. But the trade adjustment assistance bill failed when 303 voted against it.
Republican leaders then passed, in a 219-to-211 vote, a stand-alone bill that would grant the president the trade negotiating authority he sought. But that measure cannot go to the president for his signature because the Senate version of the legislative package combined both trade adjustment and trade promotion.
The House will try again to pass the worker protection part of the deal again on Tuesday, but at this point things are looking pretty grim. We'll see what happens, and the trade legislation is far from over, but it's going to be a long trek to the top of this.