Both Sides Express Confidence in U.S. House Trade Vote Fight

Updated on
Was8928737

US President Barack Obama looks on during his meeting with his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi in the Oval office at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 21, 2015.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

House Republicans and the White House are expressing confidence they’ll win final passage of President Barack Obama’s fast-track trade bill, though Representative Rosa DeLauro says she and other opponents shouldn’t be counted out.

“I believe we have the votes,” said the Connecticut Democrat on Wednesday, referring to the number needed to defeat the measure in a House vote expected in a week or two.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest offered an opposing view. He said the president is talking with House Republicans as well as fellow Democrats, and that there is a feeling that backers will find enough votes.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said Wednesday, “I don’t think we’re quite there yet” in gaining enough support to pass the measure. In an interview on Fox News Radio’s “Kilmeade and Friends,” he said he hoped to get the fast-track measure onto the House floor in the next few weeks.

The trade measure, passed in May by the Senate, would let Obama submit trade agreements to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments. The president has said he wants to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and send it for approval under that procedure.

“Most of our efforts are concentrated in trying to persuade Democratic lawmakers to support this legislation,” said Earnest during a briefing Wednesday. He said there also have been talks with House Republicans, including Boehner and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

‘Effective Communication’

“We have been pleased with the effective communication between the White House and leading House Republicans on this issue,” Earnest said. “There’s a lot more work to be done.”

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the third-ranking House Republican and top party vote-counter, said at a news conference on Tuesday, “We’re going to continue to work until we get it done.”

Neither side in the debate over the trade bill, H.R. 1314, is backing up such claims with specifics on their vote analysis.

“Everybody has different whip counts,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who supports giving the trade promotion authority to Obama.

Most Republicans are backing Obama, who contends the trade measure would help U.S. workers and set rules for the global economy. Many Democrats remain stung by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which labor unions blame for a decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Republican Control

Republicans control the House, 245-188, meaning that if all members vote, support from 217 is needed to pass a bill.

Two House aides said last week that informal vote counts showed more than 200 Republicans supporting the measure and about 25 House Democrats prepared to vote yes -- enough for a clear majority. The Republican and Democratic aides sought anonymity to discuss the measure in advance of a vote.

DeLauro, when asked about specific numbers of Republicans and Democrats ready to oppose the measure, replied: “You don’t believe I’m going to tell you how many votes I have, do you?”

“We have overwhelming votes on the Democratic side, and I’m hoping for substantial votes on the Republican side,” she said.

About 20 Democrats say publicly that they’re willing to buck DeLauro and most of their caucus to support the president.

Scalise and others are holding one-on-one meetings this week with undecided Republicans, said California Republican Devin Nunes, a fast-track supporter. Also, on Wednesday Scalise and Ryan hosted pro-trade organizations at the Capitol.

No Specifics

A Scalise aide said Republicans know how many lawmakers from their party are planning to support the measure but declined to provide the tally. The number is in flux.

Republican supporters pointed with approval to Obama’s plans to press the case through speeches, interviews on local television stations to promote trade, and offering cover to Democrats who are on the fence.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, not historically a supporter of fast-track authority, has been giving supporters a free hand to persuade undecided lawmakers.

The possibility of Democratic leaders asking some members on Obama’s behalf to support the bill “certainly could be an option,” second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Wednesday.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE