In a show of dissent within the ranks of the Democratic party, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has blasted a proposed trade push championed by President Obama that would enable increased commerce between America and several countries. While the President insists that the trade initiative would benefit the middle class, Reid and other key Democrats claim that the legislation would actually damage the economy by destroying manufacturing jobs.
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Reid has long butt heads with Obama over the trade push. “I’m not only a no, I’m a hell no,” Reid affirmed recently, echoing the opinion of many other Democrats that otherwise toe the party line. Reid and Obama have long enjoyed a cozy relationship with one another, so this latest schism bodes poorly for Obama’s ability to woo Congressional Democrats.
Part of the trade push would empower the President to request Congress’s approval of trade deals, but would not give Congress the opportunity to change the terms of these agreements whether or not they approve them. Democratic opposition to the push essentially represents a preemptive rebuke of Obama’s larger trade policies.
Tensions between Senate Democrats and Obama have run high on the issue, but they came to a head this week when the Senate Finance Committee tried to force a vote on the trade push. In response, potential 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a Democrat, exploited a technicality to delay the vote while he delivered a statement that voiced his disapproval with the bill. The committee did eventually decide to fast-track the bill, voting 20-6 in Obama’s favor.
Now, the House and the Senate will have the chance to weigh in on the legislation. The Republican-controlled Congress is likely to favor the trade push, as the GOP has historically supported free trade. Liberal organizations and labor unions, on the other hand, worry that the US will shift its focus to exports instead of encouraging domestic goods, resulting in a weaker job market and a disadvantaged middle class.
Without the support of the Democrats, the trade push is most likely dead in the water, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. He, along with other Republicans, says that Obama must make a more concerted effort to sell the initiative to his party if he wants to see the bill eventually cross his desk.