WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) found herself searching for the right words on Thursday to capture her feelings about sharing a position with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh, an icon for tea party Republicans, assailed President Barack Obama last week over his trade negotiations with 11 Pacific nations -- something Warren has been doing for months.
"I know it is a cliche to say that politics makes strange bedfellows," Warren told reporters on Thursday. "But, wow -- politics makes strange bedfellows."
Warren is engaged in a bitter and very public feud with the White House, arguing against giving Obama fast-track authority to push trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress without an amendment or filibuster process.
It was Warren's criticism of Obama, in fact, that led a caller to query Limbaugh earlier this month about his views on the trade deal. Per the transcript on Limbaugh's site:
CALLER: So anyways, I read a quote earlier from Elizabeth Warren about this transpacific pact, and she was making fun of the Obama administration for saying if we knew what was in it we wouldn't want to pass it. And she said that is not how a democracy works. I think that sounds pretty similar to how they did Obamacare, doesn't it?
RUSH: Yeah, it is. That's a good catch on your part, Joel. I can tell that you are a lifetime, lifelong listener. Great, great catch.
Limbaugh went on to summarize the progressive critique in his own terms. "There's another reason the left, the Democrats, don't like it," he said. "They think that the Obama trade deal empowers evil corporations to sue things like the United Nations over EPA regulations and so. They really hate it for that reason."
The Senate passed legislation before its Memorial Day recess granting Obama expedited powers, and now the House is expected to follow suit, if it can.
House GOP leadership is working hard to corral the votes to pass the bill, but a conservative faction of their caucus is not giving in easily.
Limbaugh’s recent comments could make it even harder, and embolden those Republicans who have been hesitant to get on board with their party leadership.
“Why in the world, when Obama's trade deal is flittering away by the wayside because his own party doesn't want it -- a trade deal that should not be authorized because nobody has seen it -- do all of a sudden Republicans come along to bail it out and essentially make it possible?" he said last week.
To complicate matters, the Senate-passed bill also has an unwanted rider attached. The upper chamber failed to tweak language that bars Malaysia from the TPP due to its engagement in human trafficking. The White House has argued that Malaysia is needed in the agreement, and had approved of modified text that should have made its way into the Senate bill. That text would have said, essentially, that Malaysia will be allowed to be in the TPP if it creates a solid plan to address what amounts to a modern-day slavery problem.
It will be up to the House to fix the language for Obama. But Republicans are expected to push for including Malaysia in the partnership, which would likely enrage Democrats who want to exclude the country until it cleans up its human rights record.