Amid heavy opposition from Congressional Democrats on the trade promotion authority and the National Defense Authorization Act, the White House reaffirmed that President Barack Obama is the leader of the Democratic Party Friday.
Deputy press secretary Eric Schultz made this clear during Friday’s White House briefing, telling ABC’s Jon Karl that while they are having issues coalescing the party behind him on the two issues, the president enjoys “broad support” from the party on the rest of his agenda.
“Who, right now, is the leader of the Democratic Party? It doesn’t seem like the president is showing much persuasive power with Democrats on Capitol Hill right now,” Karl asked Schultz.
“Jon, I’m not sure that’s true. The president is the leader of the Democratic Party,” Schultz affirmed. “If you look at the legislative priorities, the public policy priorities over the past six and half years now, they enjoy broad support from within the Democratic Party — even those who disagree with this specific issue of trade.”
“But the president has now allowed his party affiliation to preempt him from working across the aisle on issues that enjoy bipartisan support. He’ll be the first to admit that trade is a difficult issue for Democrats. That because of past trade agreements not living up to the hype, that there is a residue of bad feelings and he’ll be the first to admit that,” Schultz told Karl. “That’s why he insisted to make sure that we learn from the past, and that’s also why he believes that not passing this trade deal will lock in the status quo, and that’s why he believes that doing that would be a bad idea. So he’s willing to work with Democrats on this, he’s willing to work with Republicans on this.”
Earlier in the week (as Karl noted), 41 Democrats voted for the NDAA as currently constructed, which Obama had vowed to veto if it reached his desk. The bill recently passed the House, though every Democrat (along with 20 Republicans) voted against an amendment barring immigrants who are now protected through their Deferred Action for Childhood arrival status the chance to serve in the military.
Senate Democrats also threw up a temporary roadblock on the TPA early in the week before voting to start debate on the key trade legislation giving the president the authority to fast track a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.