Sen. Patty Murray has voted for all trade deals that have crossed her desk since she was voted into office in 1993, but she's not saying how she'll vote on the president's trade agenda Tuesday.
The Washington senator is being targeted by both President Barack Obama, who needs all the Democratic votes he can get to push the trade legislation through, reports Politico
, but labor unions are pushing her to vote against the measure, which they say is a bad deal for American workers.
Just 14 Senate Democrats voted
last month to advance Obama's trade plan, and at the most, he can afford to loss just three of them in Tuesday's vote. But the Democrats who support the trade agenda are in the minority, and Murray's voice could carry a lot of weight in keeping Obama's legacy agreement alive.
"I am incredulous that anybody here in any party would vote for a trade agreement without taking care of workers first," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a fierce opponent of trade deals.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, Murray's fellow Democratic lawmaker from Washington, is already warning she's voting against the legislation, as she is concerned about the "certainty that we’re going to take care of workers who are laid off." Cantwell did vote along with Murray last month to advance the trade package.
But Democrats are also divided within Washington state. Three of the state's House Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), while the other three voted against it.
According to the Washington Council on International Trade, about 40 percent of the state's jobs are tied into international trade, and about 30 percent of the goods Washington exports went to the 11 Pacific Rim countries that are negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will only become law if the Senate approves the TPA legislation this week.
Murray has spoken to Obama repeatedly about the issue, along with pro-trade groups, and is being viewed a likely "yes" vote. However, she joined an effort last month to initially block the trade debate.
"I am trying to do what I always do, which is to respect everyone’s point of view and trying to find the best path forward for all of us," Murray said.
She is also seeking assurances that the TPA bill, which would allow Congress to approve or reject while not amending the Trans-Pacific Partnership will not be the last trade bill Obama sees. She joins other Democrats in wanting to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which aims to help workers hurt by trade deals with job training and financial assistance, and wants assurances it will pass both the House and Senate this week.
Republicans added the TAA package with the fast-track bill, along with a vote on renewing the expiring charter for the Export-Import Bank. But House Democrats blocked the TAA plan in hopes of stopping the trade agenda, and GOP leaders backed by Obama split the Senate proposal, moving TPA and TAA separately in the hope of getting them passed. Last week, the House narrowly passed the fast-track bill.
Murray's allies are saying she's staying quiet so she won't alienate progressives and unions, whose help she'll need next year if she faces a serious challenge for re-election.
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