President Barack Obama faces an uphill task selling his fast-track trade package to dubious Democrats in his own party while many Republicans support the measure, according to The Wall Street Journal
The White House has already called on Cabinet secretaries to promote the legislation that allows the administration the power to accelerate trade deals without going to Congress, which the president had pushed in his State of the Union speech this week.
Saying fast-tracking would create jobs and counter China's influence in the Pacific, the Obama administration is anxious to press forward with a proposed trade arrangements with Japan as well as other Pacific nations and the European Union, the newspaper reported.
Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee told the Journal: "Most Republicans are for this. We would like to see the Democrats on board, too."
But there are some Republicans who are wary of granting Obama the authority to sign overseas trade deals that would bypass procedural delays or amendments in Congress, says the Journal.
Without knowing exactly how many House Republicans would support the measure, Obama will have to secure the votes of leery Democrats.
Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, vice chairman of the House Democratic caucus, who opposed giving President George W. Bush fast-track authority, said Obama will have "to explain to the American people" why these deals are necessary.
"This is not going to be rammed down the throats of the Democratic caucus," he said.
And California Rep. Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, says: "More and more it seems like Congress is shut out of the process, which means the public is shut out of the process."
Democrat Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who backs Obama's trade authority, revealed that he had received a call prior to the State of the Union address from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. "It was a general conversation: 'I hope we can count on you,' " said Connolly.
But Pritzker is likely to face tougher conversations ahead with skeptical Democrats as trade unionists and trade watchdogs line up against fast-tracking.
"We believe that this is an area where the president is out of touch with the Democratic base," said Ilana Solomon, director of the responsible trade program at the Sierra Club. "We believe that the Democrats will be with us."
And Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO, the biggest U.S. labor confederation, said: "We are going to do our best to make sure this is not an easy vote. We will make sure our members of Congress know how unwelcome this is."
However, business leaders are hoping that fast-tracking is quickly approved in Congress, according to the Journal.
"We're very optimistic we can get (legislation) passed early this year," said David Thomas, vice president for trade policy at the Business Roundtable, which represents many large U.S. companies.
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