Friday morning, President Obama visited Capitol Hill in a last-ditch effort to persuade his fellow Democrats to pass the Trade Adjustment Assistance Bill, a measure necessary for the passing of the TPA bill. Despite his best efforts, the TAA bill failed miserably, with a vote of 126-302 against.
The TAA was meant to provide aid to US workers displaced by free trade, and was crucial for ensuring Democratic support for the president’s fast-track trade authority deal. Without that fast-track bill, the TPA, Obama will be unable to implement the controversial 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Many Democrats said that Obama’s meeting only served to cement their vote against the bill.
"The President tried to both guilt people and impugn their integrity. I was insulted," Representative Peter Defazio told reporters.
"Slow down the fast track to get a better deal for the American people," Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a speech.
While not unexpected, the bill’s failure is somewhat of a reversal for Democrats, who have traditionally supported TAA as a way to help unemployed workers.
"There has always been a coalition of Republicans and Democrats that have passed TAA, and if Democrats are not going to put up votes for TAA because they want to kill TPA, to the point the president makes, TAA is going to die," Representative Pat Tiberi said, according to Politico.
Many saw the fast-track as a way for the president to avoid scrutiny of a potentially devastating trade agenda. Speaking to Radio Sputnik’s BradCast, US Congressman Brad Sherman called the secrecy around the bill a "one-sided propaganda machine where we get classified briefings from Administration experts and they’re able to say 'I’m an economist. I’ve read and re-read every part of it and here’s why it’s great!'"
Sherman also explained what that secrecy is meant to hide.
"China gets 80% of the benefits of this deal," Sherman says. This was echoed by other Congressional lawmakers.
"Is America going to shape the global economy, or is it going to shape us?" Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked rhetorically.
But, TAA may not be dead. Republicans may attempt to bring it back next week, giving the president a second opportunity to push for its passing. The White House says it will spend the next few days trying to convince Democratic members to vote in favor of the measure.
But if today was any indication, the president may have a steep, uphill battle.