WASHINGTON -- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Wednesday that GOP leadership doesn’t have the votes yet to pass legislation that would give President Barack Obama fast-track authority on trade deals, hinting that Democrats will likely be needed to help pass the trade legislation.
Scalise said that Republican leadership in the House is doing its part to corral votes, with assistance from Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
“For weeks now we have been having member meetings on [trade promotion authority] with Chairman Ryan and his staff. And we’ve had a lot of members come through,” Scalise told reporters.
But, he added, he thinks “this is an opportunity for the president to step up and provide leadership in his conference” to whip votes.
A majority of Republicans support the bill, which would let Obama use expedited procedures to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 12 Pacific Rim countries and a separate partnership with Europe, but the measure still doesn't have enough members committed to passage. Democrats overwhelmingly oppose giving Obama fast-track authority to essentially bypass Congress, which has led to an intense lobbying effort by the White House and Republicans.
Scalise said Republicans have yet to see the administration make a “strong push” to get Democrats on board.
Democrats offered a differing account on the trade front last week, venting frustration with the administration for its full-court press on the issue.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told reporters last week that it’s “maddening” how much the administration has pushed fast-track on them.
"I think if you could get my colleagues to be honest, on the Democratic side, with you -- and I think you can mostly -- they will say they've been talked to, approached, lobbied and maybe cajoled by more Cabinet members on this issue than any issue since Barack Obama's been president," Brown said of trade.
But Republicans want the administration to do more, Scalise said Wednesday.
“We are still working through it,” Scalise said. “This is going to be a bipartisan effort and we want to see that equal push from the administration.”