It’s been three months since Obama began urging Congress to move forward on three job-creating trade deals “right now.” And yet the White House still hasn’t submitted the free trade agreements (FTA) to Congress for a vote. While Obama has been blaming congressional Republicans for obstructionism, The Hill reports Democrats are the ones still holding up the deals:
Throughout the summer, Obama has been making the case that the trade accords with Colombia, South Korea and Panama will help the ailing economy by creating jobs. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) disagree.
The politically awkward situation comes at a time when the nation’s unemployment rate is 9.1 percent and Republicans and Democrats are jockeying for position on job creation.
Reid has vowed to vote against all three deals when they arrive on the Senate floor, possibly as early as next month.
During the summer, Reid said he was open to supporting the FTAs as long as the union-approved Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) workers’ assistance program was passed first. The Senate passed the TAA last week, but it’s still waiting for a vote in the House.
However, Pelosi and other Democrats have maintained for a while that the TAA won’t be enough for them to support the deals. Pelosi is asking for legislation to address Chinese currency manipulation before she’ll consider the FTAs, and it sounds like Reid might be hinting in that direction as well:
Last month, in a speech to the United Steelworkers, Pelosi said China’s currency manipulation must be addressed before sending the trade deals up to Capitol Hill ….
Reid last Tuesday also addressed the currency issue: “The first major jobs bill we’re going to have is [to] send a message to the Chinese, where we’ve lost 2.8 million jobs during the last eight years, and that is we’re going to do something about Chinese currency. And we’re going to do that quickly.”
The pushback from congressional Democrats leaves Obama in a bind. He’ll hurt himself with his base if he sends them to Congress without support from Democrats and labor unions. Plus, it will muddle his argument that House Republicans are to blame for intransigence on jobs. But he’s already been demanding Congress pass the deals for months, and the longer he waits, the more incompetent he’ll end up looking.