President Obama met with House Democrats behind closed doors on Capitol Hill Friday as part of a last-minute push for support on a major trade deal.
The House is scheduled to vote on a measure that would strengthen Obama’s authority to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the biggest free trade deal of all time and a major second-term priority for the Administration.
The bill has already passed the Senate, which means the House votes Friday are the final hurdle for Obama. Republicans in both chambers are generally supportive of the trade deal, setting up an unusual alliance with Obama in his second term.
But some House Democrats are threatening to vote against the bill, causing a last-minute headache for the White House and setting up a rare nail-biter of a vote in which neither side knows what will happen.
During Friday’s meeting, Obama told Democrats to “play it straight” on the pending trade votes. For nearly an hour, he argued that Democrats should stick to their guns on the fast-track bill and not let last-ditch opposition by some progressives derail it. Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was in the room, said there was a feeling that Obama had waited until the last minute to try to sway votes. “I wish there would have been much better outreach by them,” he said.
Afterward, Obama wouldn’t tell press waiting outside the meeting room whether or not Friday’s trade votes were set.
“I don’t think you ever nail anything down around here,” he said. “It’s always moving.”
As part of his intense lobbying effort, Obama made a surprise visit to the Congressional Baseball Game Thursday evening, ironically arriving as the game was at a tense 2-2 standoff.
As he walked across the grounds at Nationals Park, the Democratic side of the stadium chanted “four more years,” while the Republican side chanted “TPA! TPA!”—a reference to the Trade Promotion Authority the bill would give Obama.
With Aisha Bhoori and Maya Rhodan/Capitol Hill
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