Obama invites Dallas lawmaker, other trade backers on summit trip to Germany
WASHINGTON — Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson will be one of four lawmakers joining President Barack Obama this weekend on a trip to Germany for a summit of leading industrialized nations, the White House said Friday.
The lawmakers are among 17 House Democrats who publicly back Obama’s bid for fast-track authority to negotiate a Pacific Rim trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Senate has already approved fast-track legislation. The House votes next week, and prospects there are unclear. While most Republicans side with the president, most Democrats do not. They face pushback from unions, environmental advocates and others.
Fast-track authority would ensure that Congress could only approve or reject a deal, not amend it. Presidents from both parties have used such authority since the 1970s.
Obama says the deal would boost exports and bolster the U.S. economy. He says trade gives the United States leverage to prod its partners to raise their own labor and environmental standards.
Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk — Obama’s first-term trade ambassador — has been rallying support.
“The choice between being a progressive and being for free and fair trade is a false one,” Kirk wrote in the Houston Chronicle. “We can stand for progressive, democratic values while also working to promote those values overseas.”
Aside from Johnson, the president will travel to the two-day G-7 summit with Reps. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Jim Himes of Connecticut and Mike Quigley of Illinois. Air Force One departs Saturday evening for Munich and returns Monday night.
Johnson declined to comment. Aides pointed to an op-ed she wrote in the North Dallas Gazette in which she cited the billions of dollars of exports North Texas churns out, and predicted growth from the TPP.
“The North Texas export market is integral to any strategy that aims to grow the economies of Dallas and Texas,” she wrote.
Johnson’s backing earned her a shout-out from Obama in an interview with KTVT-TV (Channel 11) this week — part of a White House push targeting congressional Democrats he hopes to sway on trade.
“They’ve looked at the facts and they know this is the right thing to do for the United States,” Obama said of Johnson and other allies.
The area’s other Democratic House member, Fort Worth’s Marc Veasey, has resisted the lobbying so far. He declined a recent invitation to a White House meeting with Obama, and he has cited concerns about economic and environmental conditions in countries involved in the deal.