The White House on Tuesday criticized Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's threat to block the administration's trade blueprint, saying lawmakers are "setting the bar awfully low" if they cannot balance completing the deal with other initiatives in coming weeks.
Reid, the Democratic Party's leader in the upper chamber, has taken a particularly aggressive stand against the Obama administration's efforts to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive, 12-nation pact. Most Democrats oppose granting Obama Trade Promotion Authority to push the pact through the upper chamber without amendments, showcasing a rare fissure between the president and his progressive base.
Reid on Monday said he would block trade legislation in the Senate until lawmakers first deal with the expiring Highway Trust Fund and Patriot Act.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said there was no reason that the Senate could not complete each of those items before the Memorial Day holiday at the end of the month.
"We're setting the bar awfully low if we think the Senate can only do one thing over the course of the next month," said Obama's top spokesman. "The American people have a higher expectation for the ability of the United States Senate to get things done that are clearly in the best interest of the American people, particularly when we know ... there is strong bipartisan support."
Republicans, who mostly support the Pacific trade deal, say the White House needs to get Democrats on board.
But Reid is just the latest example of how difficult it has been for the White House to convince Democrats that the trade deal would not hurt U.S. workers.
"[Senate Majority Leader] McConnell said he wanted to move to trade in the next two or three weeks ... but I don't think he's going to have an easy time doing it, because I will not let him do that," Reid told the Huffington Post. "He's going to have to work around me and the caucus."
When asked if the White House had enough votes in place to pass Trade Promotion Authority, Earnest referred reporters to McConnell.