WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and his team continued to try to rally support for his Pacific trade deal on Wednesday, making absolutely no progress with Illinois Democrats in Congress.
When I wrote about Obama pushing Democrats to vote for his trade pact in early May, Rep. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., who is running for the Senate, was undecided. Now she is a no.
Last month, the Senate approved giving the president “fast-track” trade promotion authority with only two votes to spare.
The Illinois senators split. Democrat Dick Durbin voted against allowing the president to negotiate the pact on a “fast-track” and then present it to the Congress for a vote.
Republican Mark Kirk was a yes vote, which put him at odds with Duckworth, the leading Democrat to run against him in 2016.
Obama has a steep climb in the House to get fast-track authority. He needs to find about 25 House Democrats to join with House Republicans to get the measure passed. Illinois House GOP members are on board.
Most counters say Obama has only about 17 Democrats supporting fast track, including Rep. Mike Quigley, the sole Illinois Democrat backing the trade legislation.
On Wednesday, Obama gave interviews to local TV anchors from stations in Dallas, El Paso, San Diego, Seattle and Sacramento, part of an effort to pressure House members who represent those areas.
Obama is doing little direct outreach to House Democrats from his adopted home state. Perhaps they are considered lost causes. Or almost.
Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., who was undecided last month, now is leaning no. On Wednesday, he met in his Capitol Hill office with Rory MacFarquhar, the National Security Council director. Mayor Rahm Emanuel phoned him on Sunday to urge support, Foster’s spokesman said.
On May 29, Jeff Zients, director of the United States National Economic Council, also discussed the trade deal with Foster over the phone.
I talked Wednesday with David Simas, director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, who is working the Illinois precincts.
“When 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States and 3.2 billion consumers will be in the Asia-Pacific region . . . this is about a fundamentally important economic priority for the American people,” Simas said.
Duckworth detailed her reservations about the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal at a City Club of Chicago appearance last Thursday.
“And so with the TPP, you know the administration has to do a better job of convincing me that there are rigorous inspection regimes,” Duckworth said. She raised concerns about food safety and enforcement provisions and the potential that China would cheat over country of origin labeling.
I asked Simas about Duckworth’s worries. He said: “If you are a small business today in the Chicago area, you are facing tariffs of nearly 35 percent.” If the trade deal gets done, “we are going to bring those down close to zero.”
Where Illinois Democratic House contenders stand
There are Democratic primaries shaping up in two big Chicago area House races, and none of the rivals would vote yes on the upcoming fast-track vote. That’s in the 10th Congressional District, where former Rep. Brad Schneider is facing off with Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, and in the 8th Congressional District, where state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, is running against businessman Raja Krishnamoorthi.