Obamatrade is not quite dead yet.
Moments after trade adjustment assistance — a big labor bailout paid for by a tax increase on Americans — was annihilated by a vote of 126 to 302, killing a bid to grant trade authority to President Barack Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the House then promptly voted to adopt the trade authority provision.
With a catch. Under the House rule that brought the legislation to the floor, the bill cannot reach Obama’s desk unless the trade adjustment assistance is included as currently drafted.
So that means this week the House will once again likely be voting on the issue in two steps. First, to lift the motion to reconsider trade adjustment assistance from the table, and then the motion to reconsider trade adjustment assistance itself.
But now the stakes are much, much higher.
Trade adjustment assistance was supposed to be a sweetener intended to encourage Democrats to support trade promotion authority, which they oppose. Now, a vote for trade adjustment assistance will, in effect, pass trade authority and put it on Obama’s desk.
On the original vote, 40 Democrats supported trade adjustment assistance. But now the pressure from the left will be to oppose it, lest trade authority become law.
A vote for trade adjustment assistance is now a vote for trade promotion authority.
Democrats will face a stark choice between the lame duck Obama administration, and their most vehement supporters. So expect fewer Democrats to support it this time around.
In the meantime, 109 out of the 158 House Republicans who voted against trade adjustment assistance voted in favor of trade authority. They know that in order to get trade authority, they must pass trade adjustment assistance.
But to do that, Republicans must approve a tax increase that will be used to make payments to labor unions that lose jobs thanks to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — something their base abhors.
Into those headwinds, it is hard to imagine that House leaders will manage to move more than 90 members needed on trade adjustment assistance to get it across the finish line.
Constituents in both parties are dead-set opposed to the whole thing. Meaning, House Speaker John Boehner’s bid to resurrect Obamatrade will be another closely-contested bout on the House floor.
On the other hand, recent Congresses have proven more than adept at ignoring the American people on the most important issues facing the nation. Bailouts. Obamacare. Dodd-Frank. Spending. Executive immigration amnesty. The list of disappointments goes on.
So, it will probably pass.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.