House Republicans signaled Wednesday that they will need Democrats to help pass trade-authority legislation that their conservative flank opposes and called on President Obama to persuade lawmakers in his own party to help pass the measure.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., wouldn't say he has the votes to pass a bill that would give President Obama expedited authority to authorize trade deals. Under the legislation, Congress would be able to vote up or down on trade deals without adding any amendments.
"We are still working through it," Scalise said after a closed-door meeting with Republican rank-and-file members. "But this is going to be a bipartisan effort. We want to see that equal push from the administration."
House Republican leaders have allied themselves with Obama on passing the Trade Promotion Authority legislation, also known as TPA or "Fast Track." But its passage is uncertain as conservatives have grown skeptical of a deal that would award more authority to a president who they believe is already practicing executive overreach by authorizing millions of illegal immigrants to obtain work permits and some federal benefits.
Democrats, meanwhile, have grown skeptical of trade deals because they believe the measures have hurt U.S. jobs and have given foreign countries an unfair advantage because they don't always follow the rules.
Republican leaders said they are working to convince GOP members that the measure includes enforcement provisions.
But Republicans seemed to acknowledge they may not be able to convince enough Republicans to pass the legislation without Democrats.
"This is an opportunity for the president to step up and provide leadership in his conference," Scalise said. "Because one thing we don't see is that strong push by the administration to bring more Democrats to support this initiative as well."