President Obama suffered a stunning defeat Friday when fellow Democrats in the House hobbled his push for a legacy-defining Pacific Rim trade deal.
House Democrats used a tactical maneuver to deny Obama the fast-track negotiating authority he needs to finalize that pact, sinking a worker assistance program that’s become a precondition for Democratic support of such agreements. The vote was 126-302.
The path forward for Obama’s trade agenda, his top legislative priority, is hardly clear. “I don’t think anybody knows,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a member of House Democratic leadership, said after the vote.
Complicating the outlook, House Republicans managed to eek out a majority for the fast-track power itself following the implosion on the worker assistance funding. But procedural rules prohibit GOP leaders from taking only part of the package, which already passed the Senate, and sending it along to the White House for the president’s signature.
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