House to vote Friday on trade bill; prospects uncertain

Republican leaders scheduled a House vote Friday on sweeping trade legislation, a top second-term priority of President Obama, although they were still scrambling to secure the votes.

The leadership made the announcement on Wednesday after a closed-door GOP meeting. Rank-and-file members emerging from the session said the leadership is not claiming that it has the votes for passage -- at least not yet.

"I don't think they're there yet," said Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who is undecided and talking frequently with House vote-counters.

Amodei said the leadership needs 195 Republicans and figures they won't get more than 20 or 25 Democrats.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., also said the leadership didn't indicate it had the votes. "It's close," Kinzinger said. "We don't know."

Obama wants fast-track powers to offer trade proposals that Congress can ratify or reject, but not change. If he obtains it, he's expected to push the long-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and several other countries.

Many Democrats fear that trade deals eliminate jobs in the U.S.

Late Tuesday, House Republicans cleared the way for a vote, while also making a concession that points to the need for more Democratic votes. The Rules Committee removed a provision, strongly opposed by most Democrats, that would have funded a job-training program with cuts in Medicare spending. Instead, the program will be paid for with higher penalties and tougher enforcement of tax violations involving some businesses and higher education tax credits.

The changes were made after a private meeting between Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Boehner strongly supports the trade bill, while Pelosi has been noncommittal.

Strategists on both sides predict a close House vote, and many say the pro-trade forces are within striking distance.

"We feel very comfortable where we are and that's why we're proceeding" Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said as he emerged from the meeting. He refused to say whether they have the votes.

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, who opposes the trade bill, said he's heard from "pretty much everybody" in leadership trying to get him to switch to a yes and "why it would be in my best interest" but he won't do it.