Tags: obama | trade | victory | new | democrats

Obama Targets 'New Democrats' for Trade Legislation Victory

Wednesday, 29 April 2015 07:28 PM

President Barack Obama could prevail in his drive for legislation to boost a major Pacific trade deal if enough members of a group of moderate Democrats, as expected, lend their support, said lawmakers and trade specialists on Wednesday.

Obama faces a tough fight in Congress over "fast-track" trade negotiating authority. Approving it would mean lawmakers could review trade deals negotiated by presidents, but could only cast up-or-down votes on them and offer no amendments.

The Democratic president has strong support from pro-business Republican House and Senate leaders, but he needs backing from his own party to push through fast-track.

The administration is courting "New Democrats," the several dozen House members who either have supported past trade deals or represent districts that could gain from expanded trade.

Obama will meet with several of them on Thursday. High-ranking administration officials have traveled to some of their home states. Many New Democrats are from suburbs with no clear Democratic or Republican voting majorities. Democrats' drive to regain a House majority in 2016 depends, in part, on holding onto such swing districts.

A leading New Democrat, Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind, who backs "trade promotion authority" in the House, received an invitation to Tuesday's state dinner hosted by Obama for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Meanwhile, labor unions are running anti-fast track advertisements in many New Democrats' districts, including that of Nebraska's Brad Ashford.

Organized labor and many liberal Democrats argue free-trade deals have shipped U.S. jobs abroad, but that is a tough sell in Nebraska, with just a 2.7 percent jobless rate in February.

Instead, fast-track opponents say Obama's free-trade deal lacks strong health and environmental standards for trading partners.

Ashford shrugged off labor's challenge, saying the Trans Pacific Partnership, under negotiation between the United States and 11 Asian countries, would help his hometown of Omaha.

The 45 New Democrat Coalition members make up about one-quarter of the House Democratic caucus and include 10 of the 17 House Democrats who voted for all three of the last major batch of trade agreements and are seen as the core of Democratic support for so-called "fast track" legislation.

Republicans, who may see some of their own members vote against the legislation, need bipartisan backing for the bill.

"In that sense the New Democrats hold the key to passage in the House of trade promotion authority," said Will Marshall, founder of the centrist Progressive Policy Institute think tank.

© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


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President Barack Obama could prevail in his drive for legislation to boost a major Pacific trade deal if enough members of a group of moderate Democrats, as expected, lend their support, said lawmakers and trade specialists on Wednesday. Obama faces a tough fight in...
obama, trade, victory, new, democrats
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2015-28-29
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 07:28 PM
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