House Democrats resoundingly rejected Trade Promotion Authority for President Obama this afternoon by voting against an olive branch Obama and House Republicans had extended to the left: a worker-aid program meant to help American workers displaced by overseas outsourcing.
With the worker-aid measure no longer included, it is unlikely that many Democrats will vote to give President Obama TPA. The vote represents a major defeat for Obama’s trade agenda. Though the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not dead yet, it is suffering. The Wall Street Journal reports:
“Supporters of the fast-track bill will enter the next vote with new ammunition: the House voted 219-211 in favor of the part of the fast-track bill that would give Mr. Obama the power to submit trade accords to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments.
But the action didn’t reverse the chamber’s earlier rejection of the workers-aid bill, and under a rule established by leaders for the debate, both portions of the bill needed to pass in order for the whole thing to be sent to Mr. Obama for his signature.”
The uncertain status of the trade bill is only the last in a long line of foreign policy defeats for a man who was once reverently compared to Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. The most liberal President the United States has ever had is currently on course to be its least strategically accomplished one, too.
Perhaps a last-minute breakthrough will salvage Trade Promotion Authority of some sort for the President, but even if that happens, it will be on terms much friendlier to the union-backed left. Things do not look good for Team Obama.