House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on Thursday said Democrats aren't opposed to trade, but want to make sure any deals negotiated by the administration help U.S. workers.
[Reposted from The Hill | Vicki Needham | January 8, 2015]
Pelosi and House Democrats are seen as a significant obstacle to the White House's hopes of moving legislation through Congress giving Obama trade promotion authority, which would make it easier to negotiate deals by preventing Congress from amending agreements.
"What they have made up their minds to is that they want to see transparency, they want to see consultation, they want to see fairness, they want to see what this means to the American paycheck," Pelosi said of Democrats during her Thursday press conference.
Pelosi spoke as a group of House Democrats, led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), joined labor, environmental and religious groups to push back against granting President Obama expanded trade powers until their concerns are addressed.
They argue that U.S. trade policy is outdated and negotiations need to be more open to lawmakers and the public so they can raise the alarm against policies that they think may harm workers.
Pelosi said that the Obama administration has been talking to congressional Democrats about how trade affects U.S. workers and acknowledged that they have been "engaged in some good discussion with our members on that score."
As part of that effort, the U.S. Trade Representative's office has held more than 1,600 meetings on Capitol Hill to discuss details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which negotiators are aiming to complete early this year.
"Our trade agenda is about supporting jobs through expanding Made in America exports," a USTR spokesman told The Hill.
"TPP will be the most progressive trade agreement in history, breaking new ground on labor and environmental protections. We are going to be making that case to Congress and the American people."
Meanwhile, Republican leaders are staking out their own stances on trade with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Wednesday saying he is prepared to work with the White House to push fast-track authority through the upper chamber, bolstering the chances that any trade deals that reach Capitol Hill can gain quick approval.
USTR has said the text and briefings about TPP and other trade issues are available to lawmakers upon request.
Meanwhile, Pelosi said there is a bit of a waiting game to see how the final TPP deal comes out and how much it helps Americans.
"I do think the burden of proof is on those who want us to sign up for something like that, that it really will increase the paychecks of the American people," she said.
"But again, let’s see what they are proposing."