House Democrats humiliated President Obama after he gave a dramatic, personal speech requesting that they expand his trade negotiating power by denying him outright. Democrats voted down legislation that would aid workers displaced by trade, potentially ending Obama’s quest to fast track the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
The House voted 126-302 to stop the bill, despite an impassioned speech Obama delivered on Capitol Hill.
House minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California told The New York Times that “we want a better deal for America’s workers.” Though Democrats have typically backed the TAA, Pelosi said Democrats were willing to vote it down if that meant stopping the fast track.
Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said the measure simply insufficient and that it was “underfunded and wouldn't do enough to help displaced workers.”
“It comes down to one question: Do we support hard-working Americans or do we abandon them?” DeLauro said. “A vote for these bills is a vote against jobs and it’s a vote against wages.”
Nearly as many Democrats voted against the TAA as Republicans, despite Obama’s weeks of lobbying. However, while Obama won his party over on labor organizing, health care access and environmental protection, Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas said the president failed to change their minds about the possible benefits of trade assistance. “I wish there had been much better outreach,” he said.
Press secretary Josh Earnest called the failed vote “another procedural snafu” and said The White House would continue to “make an aggressive case” for trade adjustment assistance.