President Barack Obama's international trade agenda is dead in the water if he doesn't do a better job engaging with Democrats in Congress, and his administration appears to be getting that message, Democrats said Friday.
Congressional Democrats have often been frustrated by his lack of attention to their concerns, but they've been especially disturbed lately that in his grand pivot to Asia and push for a 12-nation trade pact dubbed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they and the rest of Congress largely have been cut out of negotiations.
"We want transparency. We want to see what's going on there," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters. "We have a problem with that."
As a result, many Democrats fear the actual terms of the deal do not reflect traditional Democratic Party policy priorities.
"This is a big problem now," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. "There is inadequate engagement on the substance of what will be in an agreement or out of an agreement."
Democrats in the House and Senate have complained for years about the secrecy standards the Obama administration has applied to the TPP, forcing members to jump over hurdles to see negotiation texts, and blocking staffer involvement. In 2012, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) complained that corporate lobbyists were given easy access while his office was being stymied, and even introduced protest legislation requiring more congressional input.