Washington Bureau

01.30.14

GOP Seeks To Divide Reid And Obama On Trade

On Thursday, Speaker John Boehner tried to drive a wedge between Barack Obama and Senate Democrats by joining Obama in supporting fast track trade authority, which Harry Reid opposes.

In a press conference at the House GOP retreat in Cambridge, Maryland on Thursday, Speaker John Boehner touted his party's support for fast track trade authority and criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for opposing President Obama on this issue. Obama touted this trade promotion authority in his State of the Union Tuesday as a way to create more jobs and foster bipartisan cooperation.

Boehner dared the Preisdent to confront Reid on this issue, saying "The question is, is the president going to stand up and lead on this issue. We cannot pass this bill without his help. This is one of his own priorities. You would think he would have the Senate Majority Leader working with him."

If approved, fast track trade authority would allow the president to negotiate trade deals with foreign countries that could then be directly submitted to Congress, which would not be allowed to amend the deals. Both Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) touted the House GOP's support for this authority to reporters, which many Democrats oppose due to concerns about labor and environmental protections in potential trade agreements.

Congress first granted fast track trade authority in 1975 but this lapsed in 1994 in the aftermath of the controversial negotiations and approval of NAFTA. Although it was restored in 2002 under President George W. Bush, it was allowed to expire yet again in 2007.