Days after the House of Representatives handed President Barack Obama a stunning defeat on trade, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he is still confident that Congress will pass the legislation.
“We continue to be committed to the idea that this is critically important business for us to get done on behalf of the American people, and on behalf of middle-class families in this country,” Earnest told reporters at his daily briefing Monday. “We also continue to be confident that it's possible to get it done.
The 302-126 trade vote defeat, engineered by the president's own party came even as Obama – oft-criticized for not engaging enough with members of Congress – made a rare trip to the Capitol to twist arms just hours before the vote.
The measure was part a trade package that would give Obama so-called fast-track trade authority – the ability to negotiate international trade deals that Congress could only approve or disapprove. Lawmakers wouldn’t have the power to amend or filibuster a deal.
Obama and Speaker John Boehner, Ohio expect to speak later today. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough already has called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Senior administration officials also called other members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate over the weekend, but Earnest would not say who.
House Republican leaders were to huddle Monday afternoon to assess about what to do about trade legislation.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters Monday that “Trade is going forward” and added that “we have made no decisions yet, but there are options.”
“There are options we can take. The best option right now would be the Democrats come to their senses and be able to move TAA,’ McCarthy said. “We’ll reassess it later today. We have the ability to bring it back up.”
Earnest said the White House believes it has some momentum after the Senate passed the bills and want to try to build on that.
“The president and the rest of here at the White House continue to be confident continue to be confident that there is strong bipartisan support for this approach, and we just have to figure out how to untangle the legislative snafu in the House,” Earnest said. “It's not the first time that members of the House have been presented with trying to navigate problems like this, but the White House will certainly be engaged in trying to help Democrats and Republicans on the Hill figure this out.”