Trade agreement? Strike one for Obama

Trans-Pacific trade, Obamacare, and a deal on Iran's nuclear program are Obama's three big challenges for June. Fast track trade authority is in trouble; with the trouble spread?

President Obama / White House photo used under United States Government works license.
President Obama / White House photo used under United States Government works license.

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2015 —On Friday, the House of Representatives narrowly voted to grant President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a trans-Pacific trade deal, but then overwhelmingly voted to add a poison pill by killing a linked measure that would provide training and assistance to American workers who lost jobs because of trade.

This vote is a strike against the Obama legacy. There are two more big issues looming this month, and Obama could strike out.

The Supreme Court is about to issue a decision in King v Burwell. If the Court sides with the plaintiffs, the Federal Government will not be able to pay subsidies to the roughly 7 million people who have signed up for health insurance on Obamacare’s federal exchanges, setting off a chain of events will result in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) falling apart.

In order for ACA to survive, Congress would have to re-write the law. Obama’s problem is that when the law was passed, he did not get a single member of the Republican Party, in either chamber of Congress, to vote for the bill. By means of reconciliation, he was able to get the ACA passed with a simple majority in the Senate. Since Democrats had a majority in both houses, he didn’t need any Republicans.

He needs them now. But after six years of ignoring their positions on virtually every action he took, they are not likely to be very accommodating. Republicans have already prepared the American Health Care Reform Act, which repeals the entire ACA and replaces it with a patient centered, free market plan, which Obama will surely oppose.

There are only three possible outcomes: The President gives in and losses his entire legacy health care plan; Congress passes a delay for a two-year period, until there is a new president in office; or Congress and the President work together on a compromise bill. All three will be unpalatable to Obama. Whatever the final outcome, it will be strike two for the Obama legacy.

Strike three could come at the end of June. In March, when Congress imposed a deadline for a deal with Iran, the President assured the country that the framework for a deal had been reached and the details would be worked out in the next 90 days so the final deal could be signed by June 30.

The two sides are further from a deal today than they were in March. Almost daily the Iranian regime makes new demands or backs away from concessions they were supposed to have made in March. Obama may ask for another extension because Secretary of State John Kerry broke his leg, but Congress is unlikely to go along.

That’s three strikes for the Obama legacy. But it didn’t have to be this way.

The President is supposed to be a leader. He must find solutions to problems, often by determining where a compromise position can be found. Most presidents have been confronted with at least one house in Congress where the opposing party had the majority. All successful presidents were able to speak openly and respectfully with the opposition to find common ground. Obama has never done this.

Republican President Ronald Reagan often called Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill into his office to discuss solutions acceptable to both sides. Democratic President Bill Clinton worked with Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich to find solutions. Has Obama ever seriously worked with Speaker Boehner?

In 2009, Obama called a meeting to discuss the Affordable Care Act with leading Democrats and Republicans. He then did all the talking, refusing to listen to anything the Republicans had to say.  When Senator John McCain, whom Obama had just defeated to win the presidency, tried to argue some specific points, Obama replied, “Remember John I won the election.”

Obama has consistently refused to consider the input from elected representatives if those positions were not consistent with his own views. He conducts his negotiations and preparation of bills for Congressional approval in secrecy. Hence few Republicans trust him, and now many Democrats are becoming less supportive.

If Obama gets three strikes in June, will any chance of a positive legacy be out?

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  • George Kafantaris

    After all he had done for them, labor and environmentalists are ungrateful in opposing the President on a trade bill that hands down will help our economy, and ultimately all Americans.

  • Dave Francis


    Gotta wonder how many politicians got bribed by the transnational corporations. I would like to be a fly on the wall, as they count their stacks of hundred dollar bills. This has the potential of the Insidious Mexican treaty, the Chinese wacko one way agreement, that has killed thousands of American jobs and help to destroy our economy. Perhaps a non politicians as Donald Trump can clean up the sewer in Washington.