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The House moved closer on Tuesday toward restoring a stymied trade legislation package that hit roadblocks last week when Democrats objected, a move that dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's economic push.
Lawmakers in that chamber passed a procedural rule that gives the House until July 30th to finish work on the “Trade Adjustment Assistance” measure intended to shield workers who might be adversely affected by the trade deal. That legislation failed in the House on Friday and subsequently stalled the "fast-track" authority bill aimed at giving the president the ability to negotiate a trade deal with other countries without Congress amending it.
The move gives the House GOP leadership more time to figure out a way forward on the trade legislation. Aides tell NBC News that “maintaining flexibility” was of the utmost importance. President Obama will have to advocate heavily over the next month to help the trade deal pass.
The overall deal at the core of the debate, the Trans Pacific Partnership, would expand trade relationships with a dozen nations. President Obama has argued that the agreement would inject a new global vitality into American markets and boost job creation.
To get to a deal, the administration pushed for Trade Promotion Authority — commonly known as "fast-track" authority which would give the president the ability to negotiate a trade deal with other countries without Congress amending it. The idea is that the president should negotiate with foreign countries, not the 535 members of Congress.
However, in a dramatic turn of events on Friday, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced on the House floor that she would be voting against the measure intended to shield workers who might be adversely affected by the trade deal and the measure giving the president "fast track" authority. Her comments came shortly after Obama appeared at the House Democratic Caucus meeting to try and urge his fellow party members to back the trade measures.
Her rationale: voting against the worker protections measure would stymie "fast track." Pelosi took her cue from labor organizations usually supportive of the worker assistance measure. However, in this case, the groups instructed Democrats to vote against it because they knew not enough Republicans would support a program they view as welfare.
Hinting the move was odd, Pelosi said, this "is the only way that we will be able to slow down the fast track.”
Shortly after, the financial assistance for displaced workers measure failed 302 to 126.
The GOP leadership then moved forward on the “fast track” portion of the bill which passed 219-211.
The way the trade bill was written, both measures needed to pass in order to move the trade package forward.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration is working with Democrats and Republicans to find the way forward but they have not endorsed a specific path at this point. They would not rule out a stand alone vote on "fast track".
President Obama has had several conversations with House Speaker John Boehner about the way forward, but has not spoken directly with Pelosi. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has spoken with the Democratic lawmaker.