President Obama made a last-ditch effort to get House Democrats on board with his trade agenda, motorcading to the opposite side of Pennsylvania Avenue to huddle with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her caucus just hours before votes on whether to give the president authority to negotiate a sweeping trade deal with Pacific-rim nations.
Despite his personal touch, not even the president seemed sure he’d have enough votes needed to surpass the 217 needed to pass the bill.
“I don’t think you ever nail anything down around here. It’s always moving,” he said, responding to a shouted question after leaving a meeting, with Pelosi at his side.
The vote is expected to be razor-thin. The president took no questions during his last-minute appeal, but spoke for about 45 minutes to a standing-room only contingent of about 140-150 Democrats, according to several aides who were present.
Afterwards, several progressive Democrats said the president gave an impassioned speech but did not change their minds.
“I thought he gave a good speech,” said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, who added that the president “didn’t change my mind.”
Republicans are expected to deliver about 100 votes on Trade Adjustment Assistance, a worker training program that needs Democratic votes to pass. The House has to pass TAA in order to vote on Trade Promotion Authority, which would give “fast-track” authority to the president to negotiate the trade deal with limited congressional intervention.