Rick Klein: “Hillary Clinton’s decision to not engage – and not even take a firm position – is itself a policy stance that has frustrated liberals along the way. But they don’t seem to have penetrated the debate in a way that’s made the Clinton campaign reconsider. The fact that a debate that’s torn Democrats apart to the point that they’re threatening to let each other “rot” has played out without the participation of the overwhelming frontrunner for president is nothing short of remarkable.”
“President Obama’s ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating powers faces a final congressional showdown on Friday, but lawmakers in his own party — pressed hard by organized labor, environmental groups and liberal activists — are threatening to bring down the entire package of trade bills,” the New York Times reports.
Politico: “Hours before one of the most consequential votes of President Obama’s second term — whether to give him fast-track trade powers to clinch a sprawling Pacific Rim trade deal — Democrats and Republicans have no idea whether the votes are there to pass it.”
“With a final House showdown coming on Friday on President Obama’s push for accelerated power to pursue a sweeping trade agreement, the vote brokering has begun — and it is all tilting to the right,” the New York Times reports.
“The legislative changes clearly show the fate of the president’s expanded trade-negotiating power rests with Republicans, not Democrats, even more so because Republicans have blocked provisions favored by pro-trade Democrats.”
“Supporters of a controversial trade bill are increasingly confident they can secure the votes needed to pass so-called fast-track legislation when it hits the House floor, which could come as early as this week,” Politico reports.
“Still, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and other GOP leaders have not yet committed to bringing up Trade Promotion Authority by week’s end, a sign that while pro-trade leaders in the House are closing in on the 217 ayes they need to pass the bill, the contentious vote remains very close.”
Wall Street Journal: “The decades-old argument that trade agreements boost both exports and jobs at home is losing its political punch, even in some of the U.S.’s most export-heavy regions.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said it is not her responsibility to help House Republicans pass a controversial piece of trade legislation at the top of President Obama’s priorities, Politico reports.
“Trade has historically been a top priority for Republicans and the current split between Democrats and the White House means it falls on the Republican-controlled House to pass Obama’s request… Pelosi told Boehner he needs to provide at least 200 votes.”
A new New York Times/CBS News poll finds Americans “are broadly concerned about inequality of wealth and income despite an economy that has improved by most measures, a sentiment that is already driving the 2016 presidential contest.”
“The poll found that a strong majority say that wealth should be more evenly divided and that it is a problem that should be addressed urgently. Nearly six in 10 Americans said government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, but they split sharply along partisan lines. Only one-third of Republicans supported a more active government role, versus eight in 10 of Democrats.”
“The bruising battle over President Obama’s push for the power to negotiate two potentially far-reaching trade pacts will shift this week to the House, where the White House faces entrenched opposition from Democrats and the stirring of rebellion from the Republicans’ right flank,” the New York Times reports.
The U.S. Senate “passed major trade legislation that would pave the way for President Barack Obama’s signature Pacific trade deal, marking a victory for the Obama administration and Republican leaders in Congress and sending the bill toward an uncertain fate in the House,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The Senate voted 62-37 to approve so-called fast track, which would help conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan and 10 other countries and ensure that the Pacific deal and others would get an up-or-down vote in Congress without amendments.”
Michael Wessel has read the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and notes President Obama is right that public criticisms have been vague.
“That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you. I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what’s hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.”
“So-called ‘cleared advisors’ like me are prohibited from sharing publicly the criticisms we’ve lodged about specific proposals and approaches. The government has created a perfect Catch 22: The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen, allowing the president to criticize us for not being specific. Instead of simply admitting that he disagrees with me—and with many other cleared advisors—about the merits of the TPP, the president instead pretends that our specific, pointed criticisms don’t exist.”
Wall Street Journal: “Labor unions are fighting hard to defeat legislation that would authorize sped-up consideration of a trade agreement being negotiated with 11 Pacific Rim nations. However, they are giving Mrs. Clinton the kind of breathing room they aren’t affording congressional Democrats or even the president.”
Senate leaders reached an agreement to revive a bill that would provide fast-track trade-negotiation powers to President Obama, “one day after the chamber’s Democrats blocked the measure in a stinging defeat for the administration,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
New York Times: “Under the deal, the Senate would vote first on a trade enforcement bill that includes new remedies to counter currency manipulation by trading partners. The Senate would then begin debate on trade promotion authority, which would allow the Obama administration to complete negotiations on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, knowing Congress can accept or reject the accord, but would not be able to amend it.”
“They’re getting the taste of the same medicine that we’ve been getting for many years”
— Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), on CNBC, saying that Democrats opposed to President Obama’s free trade agreement are finding out how difficult it is to compromise with him.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), “one of the top Democratic opponents of President Obama’s trade agenda, criticized Obama on Tuesday for what the senator saw as “disrespectful” comments toward Sen. Elizabeth Warren and indicated that Warren’s gender may have played a role,” Politico reports.
Said Brown: “I think by just calling her ‘another politician.’ I’m not going to get into more details. I think referring to her as first name, when he might not have done that for a male senator, perhaps? I’ve said enough.”
Of course, BuzzFeed found at least three instances of Obama calling Brown by his first name in public.
“Senate Democrats handed President Obama a stinging rebuke on Tuesday, blocking consideration of legislation granting their own president accelerated power to complete a major trade accord with Asia,” the New York Times reports.
“The Senate voted 52-45 on a procedural motion to begin debating the bill to give the president ‘trade promotion authority,’ eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed. Republicans and pro-trade Democrats said they would try to negotiate a trade package that could clear that threshold.”
National Journal: “Tuesday’s vote represents a major blow to Obama, who lobbied hard for the bill, from foes within his own party, as most Democrats sided with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others who led the coalition of labor and progressive activists that oppose the deal.”
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to complete fast-track trade legislation by the end of the month are running into an old nemesis: Harry Reid,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The legislation, which would ease approval of the biggest-ever trade pact, involving the U.S. and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim, was expected to sail smoothly through the Senate. The House had been seen as a bigger challenge. Mr. McConnell has scheduled a Tuesday vote to take up the trade bill, which is a priority for both Republicans and the Obama administration. In recent days, though, Mr. Reid has raised numerous objections that pose a threat to the bill’s quick passage.”
“The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else. And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”
— President Obama, quoted by Yahoo News, on his disagreement with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over free trade.
President Obama’s “most aggressive and sustained legislative push since the Affordable Care Act faces a crucial first test this week, when a divided Senate considers a bill that would grant him accelerated power to finalize a massive trade accord with 11 nations across the Pacific Rim,” the New York Times reports.
“But after a lobbying campaign that has included giving members of Congress rides on Air Force One, pitching them at meetings in the West Wing, making private vows of political support and attacking publicly critics in his own party, Mr. Obama’s top legislative priority remains at risk.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the richest man in Congress, told CNN that America has made “our poor somewhat the envy of the world.”
Said Issa: “If you go to India or you go to any number of other Third World countries, you have two problems: You have greater inequality of income and wealth. You also have less opportunity for people to rise from the have not to the have.”