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Paul Ryan: Up to Obama to turn around Democratic 'sabotage' on trade

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June 15, 2015 | comments

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By Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The House may vote again as early as this week on trade legislation that Democrats shot down last Friday in a spectacular defeat for the White House, Ways and Means ChairmanPaul Ryan says. But he puts the onus on President Obama to turn around the dozens of votes needed for passage.

"We delivered our votes and we did the heavy lifting," the Wisconsin Republican said on Capital Download. "The rest of the way is going to have to be something he figures out with his own party."

The immediate issue is a bill to provide assistance to American workers, a measure demanded by Democrats to facilitate passage of Trade Promotion Authority. That's the so-called fast-track bill the administration says it needs to finish negotiations on a pact among 12 Pacific Rim nations.

The stakes include the future of Obama's presidency, Ryan told USA TODAY's weekly newsmaker series, saying the defeat damages his clout on any priority he might push. The congressman said Democrats had "sabotaged" the president.

"You have the presidential election that's going to heat up starting in January-February and usually, from my experience, going into fall the year before, you still can get a lot of legislating done," says Ryan, who has been Obama's unlikely partner on trade. "But if his own party is going to do this to him this early in a season, in a cycle, it doesn't speak well. It makes him a very lame lame-duck president, earlier than normal."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is one of Obama's top goals as he heads into what he calls "the fourth quarter" of his tenure.

The fast-track authority itself passed the House 219-211. But the companion workers' assistance bill, a program backed by Democrats, was defeated 302-126 as just 40 Democrats voted in favor of it. The Democrats' tactical maneuver to defeat it complicates efforts to move forward on any trade legislation.

Ryan says he was stunned by the vote and accuses Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of having reneged on a deal. He rejected her suggestion that the legislation might fare better if tied to a highway bill that Democrats support.

"With all due respect to Leader Pelosi," he said. "I don't think she's in a position to be negotiating, asking for yet more things, after she wouldn't take 'yes' for an answer this time."

Meanwhile, Ryan said congressional Republicans would act if the Supreme Court rules that Americans who sign up for insurance on the federal exchange aren't eligible for premium subsidies. A decision in the closely watched challenge to the Affordable Care Act is expected this month.

"We do feel an obligation to make sure that people don't fall victim to this failure of the law, that they do not get caught in the crossfire," he says. While the specifics would depend on precisely what the high court says, he indicated that Republicans would support reinstating subsidies for a transition period.

The GOP would be "building a bridge away from Obamacare and setting up a situation where in 2017 with a new president and a new Congress, we can really clean this law up once and for all and replace it with consumer-directed, patient-centered health care."

That said, reopening the health care overhaul almost certainly would precipitate a huge and unpredictable political debate.

Ryan also signaled the death knell for the Export-Import Bank, now the subject of furious lobbying for an extension before it expires at the end of this month. While there seems to be enough votes to pass it in both chambers of Congress, he said the Republican leadership in the House doesn't plan to bring it up for a vote.

"They get entrenched interests up here; they're really hard to defeat," he said. "In order to defeat that kind of concentration of what I would call special-interest cronyism, crony capitalism, I think the best way is to let the law takes its course — and that means it expires."

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/06/15/capital-download-paul-ryan-trade-deal-obamacare/71261862/

 
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