Some liberals aren't buying it. Obama has told members he will sign TPA if it comes to his desk, the aides said, despite the White House's insistence that he won't support any "strategy" that gives him TPA without TAA.
This seems to be the "free the hostage" approach espoused by pro-trade Democratic members such as Rep. Gerald Connolly. Essentially, Obama knows he can't get TAA as long as House Democrats still can use it as a tool to block TPA — keeping both stuck. But by pledging to sign TPA without condition, Democrats will lose their leverage and be forced to drop their opposition to TAA.
That reality, progressives say, is why it's so important for the 14 Senate Democrats who voted for the TPA/TAA bill to block the clean TPA. "That's a calculation that every Democratic senator has to make," said the progressive aide. "The idea of signing TPA without TAA leaves a lot of folks behind. "¦ The fact that this is going through and the way it's going through leaves us no security [on TAA]."
McConnell tried to address that Monday, telling members that TPA and TAA would both pass the Senate within the week, as long as those who voted for the initial trade package didn't change their votes. "I don't want anyone to think that we're getting TPA done this week with a promise to get TAA done at some other time," he said. "With just a little more trust, a little more cooperation, and simply voting consistently, we'll get there."
The Democrats say they're not convinced GOP leaders will keep their pledge to bring TAA up for votes, and even if they do, it might still fall short. The first time TAA came before the House, 86 Republicans voted in favor — but many of them did so knowing that TAA needed to pass to give TPA a chance. If TPA already is signed, Democrats worry that many of them could drop off the aid bill. "What motivation does any House Republican have to vote for it at all?" asked the progressive aide. "What reason do they have to vote for TAA once TPA is law? ... You think you're going to get 30 Republicans on board? I think the math is off."
The aide pointed to the stance of conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Club For Growth, who have opposed TAA, and cited other instances where he believed Boehner had backed down from his commitments.
"President Obama saying he would sign [TPA] before TAA has passed has potentially put TAA at risk of going down," said Lori Wallach of Public Citizen, one of the outside groups opposing TPA. "House Republicans have no incentive at all to vote for TAA. "¦ It could actually provide Republicans the opportunity to carry off the hostage for good."
TAA has traditionally passed with largely Democratic support, though it would need 30 or so Republicans to join the House's 188 Democrats. Many expected the Democrats who opposed it the first time to back down once it could no longer be used to block TPA. But not everyone is convinced that will happen. "You're going to see a few people [switch], I don't think it's going to be a lot," said a second progressive aide. "Folks are going to stick to where they have been. If they go down, at least they're going to go down fighting."