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Boehner asks Obama to pressure Democrats on trade agreements

In an issue that deeply divides Ohio’s lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner today urged President Barack Obama to pressure Democrats into approving a bill that would expand the president’s authority to negotiate new international trade agreements.

In a speech on the House floor, Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., complained that Senate Democrats “are standing in the way’’ of a bill Obama wants on trade authority. Boehner said Obama “needs to use his bully pulpit only as a president can and change their minds.

“I certainly hope – and expect – he will help us move this bill forward on behalf of American workers,’’ Boehner said. “Otherwise all the talk about a ‘year of action’ would appear just to be another broken promise.’’

By wading into international trade, Boehner is picking a fight with Ohio Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown who have argued that international trade has wiped out hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.

During his State of the Union address last week, Obama urged lawmakers to approve a bill – known as fast track — that would allow the administration to negotiate new trade agreements with the European Union and 11 Asian-Pacific countries. Under fast track, Congress would be limited to either approving or rejecting the trade deals instead of altering them with amendments.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., defied Obama by saying he would oppose bringing a bill to the floor. His move was welcomed by organized labor, a major backer of Democrats in this year’s congressional elections.

In a statement, Brown said that “like most Ohioans, I support international trade and want more of it, but only when it works to strengthen our nation by growing the middle class and lifting workers from poverty.’’

“Congress’ role in the process must be strengthened so that we don’t negotiate more NAFTA-style trade deals that have sold out Ohio workers and Ohio manufacturers,’’ Brown said. “Economic mobility is not aided by shipping jobs overseas.”

Boehner, however, said expanded trade authority “means jobs. It means making it easier for our workers – including the 1.4 million Ohioans whose jobs depend on trade – to be able to compete with China and the world’s growing economies.’’

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