That's not good enough for some progressives.
"People who vote for TAA tomorrow will be hanging out there having voted to cut Medicare because the Africa bill isn't going to pass the Senate by tomorrow," Rep. Peter DeFazio said. "Then you're John Kerry, and you're explaining why you voted to cut it before you voted not to cut it. "¦ Then [Republicans] can legitimately, just like they did with Obamacare, run an ad against you saying you voted to cut Medicare."
If TAA does end up passing Friday, it will quickly be followed by TPA, which would set negotiating parameters on a pending Pacific trade deal but strip Congress's ability to amend or filibuster the deal. The centerpiece of the trade package, TPA, has the support of roughly 25 Democrats and close to 200 Republicans. Its backers think it can pass, but it won't get a chance unless TAA finds a way to get through first.
That uncertain support sets up a repeat of Thursday's drama, where several Democrats—including Connolly, Rep. Ron Kind, and Rep. Henry Cuellar—swooped in to save a rule vote that was tied at 206. A Democratic aide said GOP Whip Steve Scalise approached Kind before the vote, knowing Republicans were unlikely to push it through on their own. The pro-trade Democrats, he said, were willing to lend their support in order to save their agenda for another day.
By one count, more than 70 Democrats are set to vote against TAA, according to an aide to a progressive member. That's how many signed on to a letter opposing the Medicare cuts. "We think this thing goes down," said the aide, granted anonymity to talk strategy.
Obama has been relentless in trying to persuade members of his own party to back the trade measure. On Thursday night, he went to Nationals Stadium to attend the Congressional Baseball Game and chat with lawmakers. One sign in the crowd read "Let's Make a Trade," according to the White House pool report, and some fans chanted "TPA!"
With fractures in the Democratic caucus on TAA, Republicans likely will have to provide more votes than they anticipated. Leaders were urging members Thursday to back the measure, calling it integral to the trade package supported by most of the GOP.
Still, many see the program as a bailout. "TAA is paying people not to work, that's the shorthand version of that, and we just don't need to get involved in that," Republican Rep. Steve King said. "Who decides who's been displaced, and who gets a check for being displaced. That's hokey, government-run economics. That's just simply leverage being run by the Democrats."
And Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt said he's concerned where the money would be coming from to fund the program.
Democrats see the leverage argument differently on TAA. "It's only because of our affection for that particular program that they're using it to get us to the only thing they care about, which is Trade Promotion Authority," said Rep. Keith Ellison, a cochair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "You don't get three Cabinet secretaries in here to convince Democrats to vote for something that they always vote for unless you have an ulterior motive."