House Democrats were mostly happy to get some personal attention from President Obama on Friday, as he personally pleaded with them to support his trade agenda. But with many in his party still opposed to moving forward, Democrats bent over backward to proclaim their loyalty to the president—with one giant caveat: They won't back him on trade.
"I think it's obvious that most Democrats disagree with fast-track," Rep. Brad Sherman said. "That does not mean that we disagree with the dedication and the record of this president. We are very proud of this president; we have had his back again and again."
During Friday morning's closed-door session in the Capitol, Obama reminded Democrats what the White House has accomplished during his term—and reporters outside the room could hear several rounds of applause in response.
"It was along the lines of restating what he has done, working together with the Democratic caucus on labor, on the environment, and all the issues and things that we can be very, very proud of," said Rep. Mike Quigley, who recently traveled to Germany with three other pro-trade House Democrats aboard Air Force One with the president.
There's no mistaking the problem for Democrats here. Obama has put much on the line with his push for fast-track, and a loss in the House would be an embarrassing defeat for such a key White House agenda item. That said, the White House has pulled rabbits out of the hat before, dating back to passing the Affordable Care Act and even last month on trade, when fast-track lost an initial test vote in the Senate only to make it through two weeks later.