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Big Business Being Outplayed By Big Labor Over TPP Organizing

The real battle will be in the House.
Big Business Being Outplayed By Big Labor Over TPP Organizing

If you haven't called your Congress person yet about the TPP, you should do it -- because obviously, the numbers are having an impact when Republicans are pissing and moaning over the union-organized calls:

Top House Republicans believe the business community is blowing its chance to clinch a trade deal.

Unlike unions, they say, Big Business advocates aren’t flooding Capitol phone lines. They’re not winning over skeptical Republicans. And they haven’t made much headway with business-friendly Democrats who are considering voting for the package, either.
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That threatens to create a dangerous reality for supporters of a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim nations: that it will become more politically tenable for Republicans to be against trade promotion authority legislation than for it.

The chorus of GOP complaints — striking considering the typically close ties between Republican leadership and Big Business — is coming from all over the Capitol. But it’s loudest on the House side.

David Stewart, a top aide to Speaker John Boehner, voiced the frustration of Boehner’s office during a meeting Friday with officials from business lobby groups, telling them their effort is falling short. During the meeting at the offices of the Business Roundtable, Stewart said unions are outworking the business groups on calls to GOP lawmakers’ offices.

“The lobbying effort on the Hill has been abysmal,” one senior GOP aide said. “Calls and letters into member offices are running 10 to 1 against TPA. This is an uphill fight already given the lack of trust in the president and the general unpopularity of TPA, and the current lobbying effort has not made it any easier. If TPA passes in the House it will be despite the downtown coalition and the president, not because of them.”

Of course, trade politics are tricky — the debate over TPA has triggered concerns ranging from job losses in individual House districts to currency manipulation — and it’s not just the business community that’s struggling. President Barack Obama hasn’t yet been able to build enough Democratic support to get the fast-track bill across the finish line. He faces a big obstacle in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is vehemently opposed to the legislation as it’s currently written.

But the unions’ decades-old network is outfoxing groups like the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, critics say. After a brief setback last week, the bill is expected to clear the Senate late this week or perhaps after the Memorial Day recess. Democrats are looking to stall final passage in the hopes of giving opponents more time to mobilize for the closer fight in the House, where the legislation currently lacks the votes to pass.

Another GOP aide said the ratio of opposing calls to those in favor of the trade agreement is even more worrisome, 25 to 1 or worse.

“No one is happy with what they’re doing on trade,” the staffer complained. “The business community is doing a great job of sending trade association letters to the Hill, but they aren’t doing much out in the country. I think they think they’re killing it, which just shows you how bad they are.”

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