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SNAFU Time Again for the White House on TPA, Pelosi

Obama and Pelosi mingled on the field Thursday night at the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Obama and Pelosi mingled on the field Thursday night at the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stuck a knife in President Barack Obama’s trade agenda in a rambling speech that shocked many in her flock and the White House, the administration is left to once again try and pick up the pieces.  

It’s a position Obama’s been in before this year, when Democrats initially filibustered the trade package in the Senate in what Press Secretary Josh Earnest dismissed as a “procedural SNAFU.” Well, it’s SNAFU déjá vu time all over again, as they say. Situation Normal, All — well, you know the rest.  

Earnest again trotted out the “procedural SNAFU” line after Friday’s stunning events on the House floor , and there’s at least some merit to that line. Putting Trade Adjustment Assistance in a separate vote was meant to give Democrats a chance to vote for what they wanted, Republicans a chance to vote for what they wanted and everybody would go home happy.  

Indeed, it was a procedural package Pelosi appeared to have signed off on, having negotiated a deal that intended to strip Medicare cuts via the rule.  

But crusty House Democrats knew they could slow down Trade Promotion Authority, the so-called “fast track,” by killing TAA, and so that’s what they did.  

Pelosi’s shocker of a speech was the final twist of the knife for a White House that had been counting on her — as they have again and again and again — to deliver the votes.  

It didn’t matter that Obama made his first appearance at the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game the night before, or pitched in person at an emergency meeting Friday morning — a meeting that, if anything, appeared to cement some members’ opposition.  

Many House Democrats have felt for months — and for years in some cases — that Obama has taken them for granted.  

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, who came out late against TAA, said the real issue is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership the White House is negotiating isn’t going well.  

“Before we give up our leverage,” Levin said, he wants “an opportunity to have a much more thorough discussion” on the trade agreement with the administration.  

Levin noted he issued a host of concerns way back in January — about worker rights in Vietnam and Mexico, about currency manipulation, about selling cars in Japan, and a host of other issues that he said have either been ignored or haven’t been adequately addressed by the administration.  

At this point, he said, he didn’t think he would change his mind by next week. But he didn’t rule it out either.  

Earnest, meanwhile, expressed confidence the White House would be able to get more Democrats to vote for Trade Adjustment Assistance by next week while hoping Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, could deliver more Republicans as well.  

But that’s as uncertain as mush. Would Republicans be willing to back a program en masse they oppose to bail out Obama?  

“That will happen when Hell falls in the abyss, I think,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz, said.  

Pelosi’s opposition stunned many in the press gallery and on the floor.  

“She had so successfully made this a better deal that I kind of viewed it as her bill, so it was surprising,” said Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., one of the pro-trade Democrats.  

He said TAA was now at risk.  

“Democrats,” he said, “are going to have to look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘What are we doing here?'”  

“Everybody has to go back to the drawing board right now,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who before the vote thought Pelosi had negotiated something she might feel comfortable voting for.  

What happens next?  

“I don’t think anybody knows,” Israel said.  

Rebuffing Obama, Pelosi and Democrats Scuttle Trade Deal

Obama Hits the Hill to Lobby Democrats on Trade

Obama Makes Surprise Appearance at Congressional Baseball Game

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