Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised President Obama as doing good for the country as he takes on the wing of the Democratic Party blocking his fast-track free trade agreement.
Senate Democrats blocked the trade legislation last week on a procedural vote, keeping the bill from coming to the floor for debate. The vote was 52-45.
McConnell declared Sunday on ABC that the bill would be passed this week, before lawmakers leave for the Memorial Day break.
“The president has done an excellent job on this. I point out to my members who are somewhat squeamish, as you can imagine, giving the president the power of any issue, given his expansive view of his powers on so many other issues,” McConnell said. “But this is a trade promotion authority not just for President Obama, but for the next president as well. This is a six-year trade promotion authority bill that will give the next president an opportunity to enter into additional trade agreements with other countries around the world. We know America is a big winner when we lower barriers to our products abroad. It also has a foreign policy and defense component.”
“A lot of the countries in Asia are a little apprehensive, as you can imagine, about not only Chinese economic domination, but potential Chinese military domination,” he added. “And so they would like to get closer to us. And this is a great opportunity to do that, as well as to benefit America and to create more jobs here in our country.”
Many Democrats aren’t buying that argument. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he voted against cloture “because trade promotion must go hand-in-hand with worker protections and trade enforcement.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argued that those who says free-trade agreements create jobs “have been proven wrong time after time after time.”
McConnell declared that under his leadership “the Senate is getting back to work, and what I’m doing is focusing on things upon which there’s some bipartisan agreement.”
“We passed an excellent Iran nuclear review bill overwhelmingly, Democrats and Republicans. The president is going to sign it. We have a cyber security bill coming forward that came out of the Intelligence Committee overwhelmingly. Elementary and secondary education came out of that committee overwhelmingly. We’re trying to focus on the things that we can agree on that will make progress for the country, even though we know there are many things we do not agree with the president on, and all of those will probably come to the fore on spending bills. We want to spend more on defense; they want to spend more on everything,” he continued.
McConnell said he’d be “happy” to have a bourbon with the president, but “we don’t have a personality problem; we just had differences on issues.”
“But there are some things we agree on, and I try to focus on the things that we do agree on, and where we can make progress for the country,” he said.