Washington – Once again, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is defying President Obama as he prepares to deliver his State of the Union address. Once again, the split is over trade.
DeLauro, D-3rd District, is leading a fight against one of the things Obama wants to leave as part of his legacy – a Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other nations that ring the Pacific Ocean. The president said he’ll push for ratification of the trade pact in his speech to the nation Tuesday night.
But in a Monday press conference, DeLauro joined a group of Democrats and labor union representatives who blasted the agreement.
“Tomorrow night at the State of the Union, the president will promote this agreement before Congress and the American people. But we know TPP is too dangerous for us simply to stand aside and let it pass,” DeLauro said.
DeLauro said she helped organize the press conference because the TPP is a “threat” to American jobs, encouraging outsourcing and foreign competition that would depress U.S. wages.
“We risk engaging in a race to the bottom,” DeLauro said.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler called the TPP “a corporate giveaway, putting jobs at risk rather than growing opportunity for all.”
“We will not stand by while another trade deal lines the pockets of CEOs at the expense of working people,” Shuler said.
Representatives from the National Education Association, the Communication Workers of America and the National Farmers Union are also part of the coalition trying to derail the TPP.
Last year, on the day of the State of the Union address, DeLauro and her anti-TPP allies held a similar press conference opposing “fast-track” legislation that would require Congress to vote the agreement up or down, without amendments.
DeLauro lost that bitter fight.
Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said it’s likely Congress will approve the trade pact, handing DeLauro another defeat.
But win or lose, DeLauro’s opposition to the agreement helps shore up her support among a key constituency, organized labor, Baker said.
As for challenging Obama, Baker said, “The president doesn’t like it, but he understands it.”
“I think Obama is very sophisticated about what members of Congress have to do,” Baker said. “It’s more important to have members of your own party get re-elected.”
Not that DeLauro is in any trouble, Baker said. She’s won easy re-election for years.
Monday’s press conference is just the beginning of a political fight over the Trans-Pacific Partnership that is expected to go on all year. Under the provisions of the “fast-track” bill, lawmakers will have 90 days to vote on the agreement once Obama sends it to Congress. The White House has not said when that will be.
The TPP will eliminate tariffs on American-made products and open markets in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned the White House last month that it should not bother to send the trade deal to Congress before the 2016 elections.
DeLauro has been a leader of Democratic opposition to the trade pact, which she said will weaken environmental and food safety rules as well as cost American jobs and depress wages. The coalition asked for changes in the agreement, but won no concessions.
“It’s clear that our concerns have been ignored,” DeLauro said.
His last State of the Union
In his final State of the Union address, besides pressing for approval of the TPP, Obama is expected to ask Congress for action on gun control, climate change and other issues.
But the White House said the president will change the way he delivers his address this year.
For one thing, the chief executive has released a video “trailer,” apparently designed to build viewership. It is part of an even larger social media campaign of “Meeting People Where They Are.”
“Instead of laying out a laundry list of policy proposals for 2016, he’ll look beyond the next election and instead talk about some of the most important issues that will shape our country for generations to come,” a White House statement said.
In his digital preview, Obama walks into the scene in his shirt sleeves, then sits on the front of his desk to directly address his viewers, the American people. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more optimistic about a year ahead…” he says, ultimately urging his viewers to watch on Tuesday. ” This address,” he says, “will be for you.”
The president is expected to speak of the legacy he leaves behind when he exits the White House early next year. He will probably touch on his campaign to tighten gun laws and his use of executive action when Congress failed to act.
Wednesday, in a nod to an episode of the popular TV drama The West Wing, the administration will hold its third annual “Big Block of Cheese Day.”
“Throughout the day,” the White House said, “more than 50 administration officials will answer your questions on Twitter – including the first lady, the vice president, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Acting Secretary of Education John King.” (#BigBlockOfCheeseDay) Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal will be among those Tweeting responses to questions from the public. (@SenBlumenthal)
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been invited to sit with Michelle Obama in her guest box in the gallery of the House of Representatives’ chamber, where the president will speak to a joint session of Congress. (See all the invited guests here.)
Like the 22 other guests sitting with the first lady, Malloy has had success with issues Obama has championed and has been involved in gun control and efforts to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick leave.
Another guest is Ryan Reyes, whose partner, Larry “Daniel” Kaufman, died in the mass shooting in San Bernardino last month. There also will be an empty seat to symbolize the victims of gun violence.
The Obamas also invited a Syrian refugee, a Mexican immigrant who was able to earn legal status and the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case last year legalizing same-sex marriage.
The White House said the guests are intended to illustrate “who we are as Americans: inclusive and compassionate, innovative and courageous.”