President Barack Obama wanted Congress to pass a variety of trade-related proposals, and he didn’t want to have to rely on Republican votes in order to see that happen. He lobbied his fellow Democrats in favor of trade, and he lobbied them hard. In the end, it wasn’t enough. On Friday, the president endured a stern censure from the very member of the party for whom he once served as a savior. Barack Obama’s presidency is all but over. It’s Hillary Clinton’s party now, but she does not seem inclined to lead it so much as to emerge as its supervisor by default and through a process of attrition. She is not in a hurry to rush that process, and there is no alternative Democratic leader waiting in the wings. Inadvertently, what House Democrats did on Friday was to decapitate their own party.
By a hair’s margin, the GOP-dominated House passed fast-track trade promotional authority (TPA) that will allow the president to prioritize trade negotiations and conclude the terms of a free trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries. But by a resounding 302 to 126-vote margin, however, the House resoundingly rejected a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) proposal passed in the Senate. The TAA, a giveaway to unions and other labor interests that will potentially be negatively impacted as a result of the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was soundly rejected.