President Obama has faced stiff obstinacy from Republicans for basically the entire length of his presidency, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has caused an uncomfortable peace in the normally conflict-ridden relationship between the two. On the other end of Washington, however, a trade war brews between Obama and his fellow Democrats, led by progressive champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
On Wednesday, the trade agreement overcame its first Senate hurdle for Obama to "fast-track" negotiations on the 12-nation TPP, but it now faces opposition in the House, where Democratic lawmakers will be looking to curb the deal. If it ends up passing the House as well, Obama plans to ask Congress for approval, The New York Times reported.
Trade has traditionally been a divisive issue for Washington Democrats. Liberals and labor unions worried about trade deals hurting U.S. jobs have publicly opposed the TPP. Among its biggest detractors is Warren, who said in a statement on her website on Wednesday that the administration was hiding unpopular details of the deal from the public, and called on Obama to divulge them.
Her statement came a day after Obama said Warren was "wrong" on her resistance to the agreement. Last week, Warren launched a fierce fight against the deal that she said would "help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind."
The typically-staunch Obama supporter Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, also expressed strong opposition to the TPP, echoing the sentiment of many Democratic lawmakers that the deal is moving too fast. He told The Hill on Tuesday:
I have never, ever ... supported a trade agreement, and I'm not going to start now. So the answer is not only no, but hell no.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton, the party's sole presidential candidate so far, has largely remained on the sidelines, careful to neither abandon Democrats as she vies to become their presidential nominee nor appear to criticize her former boss on the deal. But many Democrats are calling for Clinton to take a stand as the party's front-runner, and her biggest potential rival to-date, Martin O'Malley, has already seized on her silence to draw a distinction between the two.
That the details of the deal have remain shrouded in secrecy has further spurred suspicion; the public and Congress members know little about it. Many, like Mark Bittman at The New York Times, have said that the TPP would enhance corporate power under the guise of free trade and violate labor laws, food safety regulations, and even national sovereignty. However, Obama insisted that the deal wasn't being kept under wraps, saying on Tuesday that the White House has held 1,700 briefings on the TPP, and that its labor and environmental standards were "unprecedented."
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