On Friday, President Obama lost a major battle to strengthen his trade authority. Despite his hard campaigning, his party voted against him. Some wonder if this loss signals both the end of Obama’s political power and his ability to push his own party in the direction he desires.
Obama lost his battle pretty soundly, with a 126 yeah to 303 nay vote on a part of his trade bill that contained a measure that he badly wanted to be passed. The measure, meant to give assistance funds to re-train workers, has been supported by Democrats in the past, but only 40 Democrats voted in Obama’s favor.
The “no” vote was cast with a strong push by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which claimed that bill would have hurt American workers.
The president really went to the mat for this bill, too. On Wednesday, he made a rare trip to the House to impress upon Democrats how important his bill was to him. He essentially told his party that a vote against the bill was a vote against him.
But even after his personal plea, Democrat minority leader Nancy Pelosi was unmoved, and immediately announced that she was prepared to vote “no” on the issue. She was joined by the bulk of her party in that vote.
In fact, some Democrats weren’t willing to simply vote “no” and move on. Take Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, for instance. He took the opportunity to seriously criticize Obama.
“He’s ignored Congress and disrespected Congress for years, and then he shows up at the baseball game with homemade beer, and then comes to the caucus and lectures us for 40 minutes about his values and whether or not we’re being honest by using legislative tactics to try and stop something which we believe is a horrible mistake for the United States of America and questions our integrity,” the Democrat complained. “It wasn’t the greatest strategy.”
In light of how much importance Obama placed on passage of the bill coupled with his rare personal appeal, The Associated Press hinted that in these now waning months of his last term in the White House, this loss might signal the end of his political power within his own party.
At the very least, it was plain that few Democrats seemed to fear voting against the president’s interests. Many didn’t even pause, leaving little doubt that they would vote against Obama’s trade interests.
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