WASHINGTON – As President Obama heads to Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon on Friday, a company known to deal with labor standard issues in the past, the divide grows on trade deals.
Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are questioning the president’s judgement when it comes to trade. They say they are worried if the president gets his way then local businesses and workers will suffer.
It’s a back and forth between Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
“Don’t give our jobs away and our economy away for nothing. Just for the sake of corporations that are doing pretty well right now around the world to give them more markets to launch against the United States and take our jobs from us. I have a hard time with that,” Manchin said.
Manchin doesn’t want to fast track the President’s trade deals. ‘Fast track’ is when members of Congress are restricted to a simple ‘up or down’ vote on any trade agreement and can’t add amendments.
Manchin added, “I’m sure when the President was sitting in this seat being a United States Senator he would have been opposed to what he is trying to do.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest talked with the Gray DC Bureau in an exclusive, one-on-one interview, pushing back against the Senator.
Earnest said, “If the President were sitting in the Senate considering this specific trade proposal the president would of course supported it. And that’s because this is a trade proposal that’s the most progressive one that’s ever been advanced.”
Earnest talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11 country negotiation aimed at strengthening trade and investment relationships across the Asia-Pacific region. He told Gray DC, the president has learned lessons from previous trade deals and points to members of Congress who aren’t supporting the White House.
“Well I guess the first question I have for them is ‘what are they doing about it?’ We all acknowledge that the labor standards that we would like to see in some countries and in Asia aren’t up to snuff. And so are those who oppose this trade agreement willing to do something about it? The president is willing to do something about it,” Earnest said.
While Senator Manchin doesn’t support fast track he said he is still considering whether or not he will ultimately vote for the President’s plans.
The White House said it is not backing down. It will continue to challenge members of Congress when it comes to upcoming trade deals.
The Gray DC Bureau also reached out to Republican Senator Shelly More Capito of West Virginia. Capito said she remains open- minded to ongoing trade negotiations and looks forward to a robust discussion about the merits and drawbacks of the President’s plans.