New Democrat Coalition Begins Informally Whipping Caucus On Fast Track

Several members of the New Democrat Coalition have begun to informally whipping other House Democrats on a pending bill to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast track, according to congressional aides.
One aide said the effort does not amount to true “whipping” yet, since persuasion is not a part of it. According to this aide, the effort is geared more toward finding out where different members stand on TPA. In particular, it is aimed at seeing how the TPA bill plays with members of the New Democrat coalition as well as other Democrats who are rumored to be potential “yes” votes, he added.
The aide said the informal whipping process will also explore whether support among the Democratic caucus would be broader if TPA was coupled with a bill to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). He said members will be asked two questions: whether they would support the TPA bill on its own, and whether they would support a TPA/TAA package. The point is to see how many switches there are when TAA gets added into the package, this aide said.
Two members of the New Democrats Coalition have gathered roughly 30 co-sponsors for a bill to renew TAA, but have thus far held off on introducing it. One congressional aide said supporters are still trying to finalize the legislative language to ensure it is consistent with Senate TAA bill, but another aide said they are still trying to gain additional co-sponsors.
This aide said the informal whipping effort on TPA appeared to be aimed at showing that some House Democrats who signed on to a November letter to the president critical of the 2002 TPA model would actually support the pending TPA bill. The November letter was signed by 26 members of the New Democrat Coalition, roughly half of the group’s 53 members.
Both aides declined to say who was leading the informal whipping effort. One aide said coalition Chairman Ron Kind (D-WI) and coalition trade task force co-chair Gregory Meeks (D-NY) were not heading up the effort, but that it was taking place with Kind’s blessing. The other aide said that the effort was organized by the New Democrat Coalition, but that some lawmakers involved in collecting commitments are not members of the coalition.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) publicly acknowledged on separate occasions this week that the pending TPA bill faces strong opposition among House Democrats, but held open the possibility it could garner more support if it were sufficiently changed (Inside U.S. Trade, Feb. 7).
One congressional aide said New Democrats are not actively exploring potential changes to the bill. He speculated that members of the coalition who support the TPA bill do not have much to gain politically by exploring such changes, since those changes are not likely to win over constituents and interest groups that oppose fast track.

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