President Barack Obama is meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Monday afternoon, just after two of the president’s top cabinet secretaries publicly brushed off the Senate leader’s concern about trade authority.
The meeting was scheduled to be in the Oval Office at 2:30 p.m., one of several meetings Obama plans to have with congressional Democrats this week.
On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, both former U.S. senators who previously served with Reid, spoke at the Munich Security Conference where they were dismissive of Reid’s opposition to renewing fast-track trade authority, CNN reported.
“I respect Harry Reid, worked with him for a long time,” Kerry said. “I think all of us have learned to interpret a comment on one day in the United States Senate as not necessarily what might be the situation in a matter of months.”
Speaking to a pro-fast-track audience of allies, Hagel agreed.
“Let’s be smart and let’s be wise and let’s be collaborative and use all of the opportunities and mechanisms that we have to enhance each other – culturally, trade, commerce, exchanges,” Hagel said.
Obama, like most previous presidents, is seeking fast-track trade authority to allow him to work out the details of a trade treaty, then submit to the Senate for an up-or-down vote. This would prohibit various amendments too from being tacked onto a trade agreement by Congress.
As majority leader, Reid decides which legislation comes up for a vote in the Senate, which ratifies treaties. Reid said Wednesday he is “against fast track. I think everyone would be well advised not to push this right now.”
During the White House press briefing Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said the president expects to have a productive conversation with Reid. He stressed that pending trade deals with Europe and Asia would expand the economy and better paying jobs.
“Trade is an important issue on the president’s agenda,” Carney told reporters. “The agreements the president is pursuing protect American workers and protect the environment.”
Ahead of the meeting, Carney added that the president and Reid “talk all the time,” but did not know for certain they would discuss trade at Monday’s meeting.