WASHINGTON -- One day after Senate Democrats dealt a blow to President Barack Obama’s trade agenda in the upper chamber, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he is “still optimistic” Congress has the votes to give the president authority to fast-track international trade deals.
Boehner said that no matter what, the House will figure out how to deal with the trade legislation once it hits the floor.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats united to defeat the so-called trade promotion authority bill, which would give the president expedited power to funnel trade deals through Congress to the Senate floor. The setback in the Senate appeared to stall the president’s agenda, but Boehner maintained that TPA would pass.
“It’s a bump in the road. At the end of the day I think there is a majority in the House and Senate for giving the president trade promotion authority,” Boehner told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m hopeful the Senate will act soon, and when the Senate does, I expect we will act shortly thereafter.”
At the same time, GOP leadership lit into Democrats for stalling the bill.
“I’d like to express my disappointment in the Senate Democrats," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). "They abandoned their president yesterday. This was the president's big economic bipartisan agenda we had for the whole year."
McCarthy also said he was confident that “TPA has the opportunity to come back.”
But the votes won’t come easily once the legislation reaches the House. If Senate Democrats are successful in winning a few concessions on a customs enforcement bill, which, among other things, bans imported goods that were made with forced child labor, the House's job will become harder.
People watching the GOP vote count closely tell The Huffington Post that Boehner is dozens of votes short of what he needs, given that only a handful of Democratic votes can be expected.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) hinted that leadership is still working on getting its members in line with fast-track legislation -- which a number of more conservative Republicans might vote against as well.
“In the House we are continuing to grow our vote and clearly the president needs to continue to grow his vote,” Scalise said, urging the White House to lobby Democrats in favor of the legislation.