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Obama gets testy as trade bill vote approaches

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Barack Obama moved to quell a Democratic Party revolt, on the eve of a tight Congressional vote that could scuttle his trade agenda and wound his presidency (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
Barack Obama moved to quell a Democratic Party revolt, on the eve of a tight Congressional vote that could scuttle his trade agenda and wound his presidency (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Barack Obama moved to quell a Democratic Party revolt Thursday, on the eve of a tight Congressional vote that could scuttle his trade agenda and wound his presidency.

Hours before lawmakers were due to vote on granting Obama powers to complete a major trans-Pacific trade pact, the White House scrambled to get long-term allies on side.

Obama worked the phones, while dispatching key aides to Capitol Hill to gather at least 217 votes needed to win a simple majority.

“Everybody from the president on down, including many members of his team here at the White House and his economic team across the administration, are making an aggressive case to members of Congress,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Over the next 24 hours the House of Representatives will hold a series of procedural ballots, any one of which could kill the deal before it actually comes up for vote.

Obama will be relying on the support of House Republicans — who he has spent six years battling — and a thin bench of pro-trade Democrats.

Even his staunch ally, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, has so far refused to publicly back the deal.

Some Democrats fear that supporting measures unpopular with the labor movement or other core constituencies could cost them their seat in 2016.

The White House had some harsh words for its erstwhile allies.

“Members of Congress should be more concerned about the jobs of Americans than their own jobs,” said Earnest.

The 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership would encompass 40 percent of the global economy and bring together countries like Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and Vietnam.

The White House has extolled the economic, security and even environmental virtues of the deal, seen by some as a stepping stone to a broader multilateral agreement.

Republican leader John Boehner urged Democrats to get on board.

“This vote’s about doing what’s right for the country. It’s about China out there writing the rules for the global economy, and if we stay on the sidelines our allies will gravitate back towards China, away from us and away from our workers.

“If we work together it will be a big win for American jobs and American leadership.
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