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Kevin McCarthy on Trade: 'We're Going to Get It Done One Way or The Other'

Kevin McCarthy on Trade: 'We're Going to Get It Done One Way or The Other'
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Monday, 15 June 2015 01:49 PM

House Republicans will assess their next steps Monday in trying to pass President Barack Obama’s trade agenda, the party’s second-ranking leader said.

“We’re going to get it done one way or the other,” said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking to reporters in Washington.

McCarthy’s remarks come after Friday’s stunning defeat of the administration’s legislative trade package, which had previously been passed by the Senate. The action may endanger a trade deal being negotiated by Obama with 11 Pacific area countries known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“We have made no decisions yet,” McCarthy, a California Republican, told reporters.

“The best option right now is for Democrats to come to their senses” and provide the votes to pass a displaced-workers aid plan that is part of the package, he said.

Obama needs to persuade almost 100 fellow Democrats to support the landmark trade bill, a centerpiece of his second- term agenda, that most of them sought to block. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama may speak Monday with House Speaker John Boehner about how to move forward.

‘Legislative Snafu’

The president and his aides “continue to be confident there is strong bipartisan support for this approach,” Earnest said. The administration is working with lawmakers to “untangle the legislative snafu in the House.”

Friday’s setback for Obama was the 126-302 vote in the House against the workers’ aid measure, hours after Obama made a rare visit to Capitol Hill to meet with Democrats in a push for the bill.

Many Republicans have long opposed that program, and 144 members of the president’s own party voted against it.

Democratic opponents included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who criticized the trade plan in a dramatic floor speech. Pelosi signaled that prospects for passage will increase if Republicans act on other Democratic priorities, such as a highway funding bill.

McCarthy criticized that idea Monday.

“I don’t think it makes sense what she’s saying,” he said. Regarding the timing of new action on the trade package, he said, “I think sooner rather than later.”

Gathering Votes

He wasn’t specific about strategies for moving forward, or even if that includes another vote on the workers’ aid measure this week. The strategy isn’t yet clear as Republican and Democratic backers each push the other party to take on more of the burden of producing votes, said one trade advocate close to the White House who asked not to be identified because no decisions have been made.

Republicans would prefer that many Democrats switch their votes on the worker-aid measure, the person said. Democrats want Republican House leaders to combine the worker-aid and fast- track measures in a single bill, as the Senate did, and pass it with mostly Republican votes.

Other options under discussion would be more complicated. The House could pass a new rule governing debate on the trade bills that would deem the worker-aid legislation approved, meaning Republicans wouldn’t have to directly vote for it, the person said. Or House and Senate negotiators could meet in a conference committee to hash out differences between their trade bills, which would require a new round of votes in both chambers.

Administration Calls

“There’s many different options. I don’t want to lead you down one way or another,” McCarthy said. “The best option before us would actually be that Democrats took the time over the weekend and worked with their president and found a way to get it done.”

Labor Secretary Tom Perez told ABC News on Sunday that the administration worked over the weekend to gin up trade support.

“We’ve had conversations throughout the weekend with various people,” Perez said without elaborating on who from the administration called whom. “I’m very confident that we can find a way. There are multiple pathways here.”

The House on Friday voted, 219-211, to give fast-track trade negotiating authority to the president, which would limit lawmakers to an up-or-down vote on trade pacts once they are sent to Congress. Twenty-eight Democrats voted for that measure.

Obama Prodding

Because fast-track and the displaced workers measure were attached in the Senate version of the legislative package, the defeat of the trade-adjustment assistance prevents the House from sending the legislation to the president’s desk.

In his weekly radio address this weekend, Obama called on Democrats in the House to reconsider their votes.

“I urge those members of Congress who voted against Trade Adjustment Assistance to reconsider, and stand up for American workers,” Obama said on Saturday.

“Simply put, America has to write the rules of the 21st century economy in a way that benefits American workers. If we don’t, countries like China will write those rules in a way that benefits their workers,” Obama said in the radio address.

While Obama dedicated his weekly address to that appeal, the White House on Monday declined to offer details on whether he did anything else to advance his trade agenda over the weekend.

Golf, Dance

Obama spent Saturday golfing at Andrews Air Force Base with friends and hosting a closed-door concert by Prince for A- listers at the White House. The guests whose names have leaked don’t include Congress members. On Sunday, Obama was at his daughter Sasha’s dance recital.

Earnest on Friday called the embarrassing defeat a “procedural snafu” and said he was optimistic that Democrats ultimately would help send the fast-track trade negotiating measure to Obama.

The House’s majority Republicans said it will be up to Obama to turn around Democratic skeptics.

“The president has some work yet to do with his party; this isn’t over yet,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said at a news conference after the vote.

Democratic backers of the trade bills said they would spend the coming days trying to persuade colleagues to revive the worker assistance bill.

Obama has lobbied for months for the trade measure. The president wants the authority to aid completion of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Many Democrats remain stung by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, linking the U.S., Mexico and Canada, which labor unions blame for a decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs.

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House Republicans will assess their next steps Monday in trying to pass President Barack Obama's trade agenda, the party's second-ranking leader said. "We're going to get it done one way or the other," said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking to reporters in...
mccarthy, trade, bill, will, get, done
Monday, 15 June 2015 01:49 PM
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