Remember, it’s the House that is more likely to stop it. Alan Grayson says they don’t have the votes to pass it. I guess we’ll find out soon:
In the House, the stakes are different and the terrain more tricky, which makes the outcome less certain for reasons as ancient as the Constitutional Convention and as modern as today’s turbulent and nasty politics.
The reason has to do with the broader array of economic and political interests in a state as opposed to relatively smaller number of such interests in a congressional district where a single industry or a single labor union wields significant influence.
If, for example, there is a congressional district in which a single employer manufactures a product that is likely to face heightened competition from Asia as a result of the trade agreement, that member is under strong pressure to oppose it, from the company’s executives and the labor unions. The campaigns of House Democrats depend on union phone banks and election-day workers. For senators, a single manufacturer or union does not loom that large.
House members also face the discomfort of political memory. Every House member must run for re-election every two years, whereas two-thirds of U.S. senators will be shielded from the electorate by a system of staggered terms. A House member staring at an election next year views controversial votes much differently from a senator who may not appear on the ballot until 2020.
Traditionally, Republicans in both chambers have favored trade promotion authority for presidents irrespective of which party controls the White House. But there is a group of House Republicans who are unlikely to back the legislation when it comes to the floor for the simple reason that the trade agreement is supported by President Obama and they are not disposed to grant the president almost anything.
The most charitable interpretation of their unwillingness to go along with their leadership on the trade bill is that they are still smarting from Obama’s use of executive action to temporarily shield 4 million-5 million illegal immigrants from deportation and view his actions as high-handed and despotic. A less-generous interpretation is that they just hate the guy personally.
Whatever their motives, they may prove to be decisive in a final vote when many of their Democratic colleagues will desert the president fearing that an “yes” vote will imperil them politically. With AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka hinting that union funds may not be available to TTP supporters, many House Democrats will abandon the president instead.
Senators are already at work crafting amendments that will mollify groups opposed to Obama’s original trade proposal. That will provide the president with the votes he needs, but the support of one chamber doesn’t get the president over the goal line.