President Barack Obama met with House Democrats Friday morning in a last-minute effort to persuade many of the recalcitrant lawmakers to support giving him fast track trade promotion authority in a pivotal vote scheduled for later in the day.
It was yet another indication of how worried the White House is about the fate of the trade measure. It also underscores one of the stranger developments in the history of the bitter partisan warfare between Obama and Capitol Hill, in that the president can count on Republican support, but not his own party.
Indeed, on her way into the meeting, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn, said she doubts Obama can change her mind.
"It's the American people I'm concerned about," she said. DeLauro has been credited with holding the block of Democrats against the trade provision, telling the Connecticut Mirror the trade pact would “do nothing but eviscerate the jobs and wages of working men and women in America.”
The Friday morning meeting with House Democrats follows Obama’s surprise 11th hour appearance the night before at the annual congressional baseball game, where he lobbied them as well.
With the bill’s fate in the balance, Obama glad-handed with lawmakers in both dugouts -- getting support from the Republican side for his bid. (In an only in Washington moment, a sign in the audience read "Let's Make a Trade" and fans cheered "T-P-A" as Obama departed the infield.)
But it’s the Democratic opposition that could doom the measure, and Obama spent much of his 15 minutes at the game with Democratic team manager Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at his side. (The White House pool also spotted Obama having his picture taken with Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and talking with Reps. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas and James Clyburn, R-S.C.
He asked fans on the Democratic side, “Are we having fun yet?”
With only 20 of the 188 House Democrats promising publicly to back the president, even Pelosi had not yet disclosed how she would vote.
Both visits appeared to be last-minute decisions. They were not on Obama’s public schedule and reporters and photographers had earlier Thursday been given the all-clear. But Obama made the most of the trip, posing for pictures with the Washington National’s presidential mascots. The last play of the game he witnessed: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., striking out.