Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
After a bumpy few weeks in Washington, it must have been something of a relief for President Obama to touch down Friday afternoon in San Francisco. The Bay Area, after all, lent its booming wealth and tech wizardry to his start-up of a presidential campaign in 2007, and it has remained a stronghold of mutual goodwill ever since. But a reminder of the fight he’s been waging with his own party over trade policy trailed him to the coast.
Taking the stage in a Hilton hotel ballroom near Union Square, Obama embraced his introducer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It had been unclear over the past week whether the two were on speaking terms, after Pelosi stunned the White House last Friday with her late-breaking defection from his effort to secure fast-track negotiating authority on a mega-deal linking twelve Pacific Rim nations. Obama’s push — a legacy-burnishing project that forms the cornerstone of his second-term agenda — just completed a head-spinning loop-de-loop, from sure thing to dead in the water following Pelosi’s gambit and back again. Now, teetering but with a second life, its path forward hangs on the administration’s ability to execute a complicated procedural sequence with the assistance of a sliver of skeptical Senate Democratic free-traders. Amid the tumult, San Francisco should represent a safe haven of Democratic encouragement: A port city surrounded by the liberal-heavy tech industry that shares this president’s vision of progressive values married to international engagement. But on trade, its Congressional representatives have taken a different tack. The Bay Area’s all-Democratic House delegation, eight members strong, lined up uniformly against fast-track. Why? To believe the industry’s Washington hands, in the intra-party warfare, tech has been a stalwart and monolithic Obama ally. A Washington Post story earlier this month detailed how tech executives recently gave a visiting delegation of business-friendly House Democrats an earful about their need for the pact, officially the Trans Pacific Partnership, that fast-track is aimed at enabling. To the contrary, a source with knowledge of the trip tells Fortune that the corporate brass barely mentioned the issue. “It was pretty minimal,” the source says. A spokeswoman for Uber, one of the stops, confirms: “I can assure you it didn’t come up.”
To be sure, different Silicon Valley sectors have varying stakes in the debate. Chip manufacturers, for example, have an investment in the opening of foreign markets not shared by content creators more concerned with intellectual property protections. Nevertheless, the industry’s failure to muster behind a position left a vacuum that anti-trade unions and environmental groups happily filled — a microcosm of the broader labor-vs-business imbalance that shaped the fight nationwide. “The Bay Area delegation being 100 percent ‘No’ is probably the best example in the entire country of how badly they did their politics,” Wade Randlett, a longtime Democratic wrangler in Silicon Valley and free-trade supporter, tells Fortune. “And if it weren’t for the business community’s massive mishandling of a completely obvious problem, it would’ve been easy. We wouldn’t have gotten every one, but we should have had 75 percent of the Congressional Bay Area members.” The fight rages on. Once it’s settled, trade boosters will need to sort through their performance for object lessons.
• Repealing Obamacare would cost $353 billion over a decade
Bad news for Republican critics of the Obama’s signature health care overhaul: The nonpartisan scorekeepers at the Congressional Budget Office are out with a new estimate that shows rescinding it would blow a hole in U.S. coffers. The entitlement tweaks and revenue-raising tax changes embedded in the law add up to real money, it seems. Not to mention that a repeal would add 19 million to the ranks of the uninsured. No Republicans on Capitol Hill are talking seriously about ripping the law out root and branch, as they once did. But the report offers some helpful ammunition to the Obamacare supporters as policymakers await a potentially pivotal decision from the Supreme Court about the fate of the law’s subsidies. Fortune
• Hillary Clinton makes her position in trade debate clearer: She opposes to fast-track
The front-running Democratic presidential contender has straddled the intra-party debate over the push by her former boss for a massive free trade pact. But in a Thursday interview, Clinton cut through her muddle by declaring that she’d vote against handing Obama fast-track authority to finish work the Pacific Rim pact. The statement may do little to reduce the heat she’s faced by splitting the difference on the contentious issue, since as Secretary of State, she was unequivocal in her defense of the measure as key to securing U.S. interests in the vaunted Asia pivot. Washington Post
• The Obama era has meant a boon for gun manufacturers
It’s a fact almost too dismal to contemplate in the wake of the latest home-grown American massacre in Charleston. But the fact remains: the perceived threat of the Obama administration’s interest in pursuing gun control measures has spelled sales spikes for weapons makers. No matter that even nominal feints in the direction of tighter gun restrictions have gone nowhere after repeated, grisly shootings. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• Jeb is promising 4 percent growth; achieving it is another matter
In his thin-as-soup announcement speech last week, Jeb Bush made one hard pledge: As president, he’d secure the same 4 percent economic growth for the nation that he oversaw during two terms as Florida’s chief executive. Claims of future performance deserve special skepticism in any case. And Bush’s track record as governor don’t do much to secure the guarantee. Fortune
• Henry Waxman, once an anti-lobbyist firebrand, has become one
Nobody was more surprised than Henry Waxman when the liberal icon and influence industry scourge ended up becoming a lobbyist himself earlier this year. Or so says a new profile of the legendary former legislator. Waxman recently hung out a shingle with his son and has since developed a book of business that won’t confront him with any moral dilemmas (think: a drug discount program for low-income people and an environmental group). Of course, that could change, if the 75-year-old decides he wants to start making serious money. At this point, it’d be hard to imagine anyone batting an eye. National Journal