Obama quest for fast-track trade bill defeated for now in House

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Reaction: House Rejects Trade Bill

The House of Representatives on Friday delivered a blow to President Barack Obama's signature goal of strengthening ties with Asia but could try again as soon as Tuesday to reverse defeat of a measure central to a Pacific Rim trade pact.

In a dramatic vote, Obama's own Democrats, as well as Republicans, rejected a program to give aid to workers who lose their jobs as a result of U.S. trade deals with other countries. The measure was soundly defeated in a 302-126 vote.

That was quickly followed by the House's narrow approval of a separate measure to give Obama "fast-track" authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. But the legislation is stuck in the House because of the defeat Obama and House Speaker John Boehner suffered on the first vote.

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Obama quest for fast-track trade bill defeated for now in House
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) (C) talks with reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (L) talks to reporters with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) talks with reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) (R) talks to reporters following the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (C) talks to reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is pursued by reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) talks to reporters with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) (L) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) after the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 09: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) answers questions as members of the Republican leadership speak about the Defense Authorization Bill following caucus luncheons at the U.S. Capitol June 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, ,D-Texas, left, and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., join other House Democrats who are standing in opposition to the President Barack Obama's trade deal speak to reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., accompanied by fellow House Democrats, listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2016, to discuss opposition to the President Barack Obama's trade deal. Despite Obama's direct appeal, House Democrats voted overwhelmingly on Friday to reject a jobs retraining program because it was legislatively linked to fast track, which they want to kill. Both parties were asking Tuesday whether they could persuade enough colleagues to switch their votes and reverse Friday's outcome, but few were optimistic. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., accompanied by fellow House Democrats, gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2016, to discuss opposition to the President Barack Obama's trade deal. Despite Obama's direct appeal, House Democrats voted overwhelmingly on Friday to reject a jobs retraining program because it was legislatively linked to fast track, which they want to kill. Both parties were asking Tuesday whether they could persuade enough colleagues to switch their votes and reverse Friday's outcome, but few were optimistic. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. leave meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right and House Minority Assistant Leader James Clyburn of S.C., as he visits Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015, for a meeting with House Democrats. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. leave meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-NJ., arrives for a meeting with President Barack Obama and other House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. walks toward the House Chamber floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The House sidetracked a high-profile White House-backed trade bill, a humiliating defeat for President Barack Obama inflicted by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers from his own party. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
From left, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. David E. Price, D-NC., and Rep. Danny Davis, R-Ill., arrive for a meeting with President Barack Obama and other House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., left, and Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., D-Ga., arrive for a meeting with President Barack Obama and other House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (L) walks through the halls of Congress before a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) walks through the halls of Congress before a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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A House Republican aide told reporters Republican leaders hope to try again Tuesday to pass the worker aid portion of the bill. That would allow the entire trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation to be signed into law by Obama, but its chances were unclear.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed the failed vote as a "procedural snafu" and was confident Democrats would come around to support the measure.

Republican Pete Sessions said Democrats would have to do some "soul-searching this weekend" to figure out the future of the worker support program, known as trade adjustment assistance (TAA.)

"We're going to pass TPA," said Sessions, the head of the powerful House rules committee. "The question is going to be whether TAA is going to be in it."

The worker aid program drew heavy opposition from both parties, with 158 Republicans joining 144 Democrats in voting "no."

Trading partners such as Japan have urged the U.S. Congress to pass fast-track to help wrap up a Pacific Rim trade deal covering 40 percent of the world's economy.

PERSONAL PLEA FALLS FLAT

Obama had lobbied hard to win over skeptical Democrats and forged an unusual alliance with the Republicans who control Congress and made a last-ditch personal appeal to congressional Democrats to back his trade agenda on Friday.

Hours before lawmakers were due to vote on legislation central to the trade accord, Obama arrived at Capitol Hill with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for the culmination of an intense effort to build support among Democrats.

Republican support was always weak for the worker aid part of the "fast-track" trade legislation and Democrats' support eroded this week following an intensive lobbying campaign by U.S. organized labor leaders.

The AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor organization, argued that funding for the worker aid program, which runs out in September, would be insufficient.

But it also rallied support for its cause by arguing that a vote against worker aid would be the perfect tactic for stopping fast track dead in its tracks.

Fast-track authority would let lawmakers set negotiating objectives for trade deals, but restrict them to only a yes-or-no vote on the finished agreement.

Many Democrats have worried that giving Obama fast-track authority to finish the TPP would result in job losses in their home districts just as the United States was making economic gains that have led to a brightening jobs picture nationally.

Boehner, the top Republican, in consultation with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, is expected to weigh next steps.

For example, they could try to make some changes to the worker training program or schedule more one-on-one meetings with lawmakers to allay their concerns.

The Senate, in a strong bipartisan vote, has already approved the package of trade measures, which includes a customs enforcement bill. That piece of the puzzle passed the House too.

(Additional reporting by David Lawder, Julia Edwards, Roberta Rampton Susan Cornwell, Alex Wilts, Elvina Nawaguna; editing by Tom Brown and Kevin Drawbaugh)

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