Harry Reid speaks out against Obama’s trade plan

Meredith Shiner
Political correspondent
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) holds a news conference in his office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 22, 2015. Reid injured his right eye and bones in his face during an accident while exercising. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada on Thursday threw cold water on President Barack Obama’s plans to pursue trade agreements in 2015, one of the few points of bipartisan interest from his State of the Union address earlier this week.

In his first public appearance with reporters since injuring himself in early January, Reid reiterated his previous skepticism of giving the president carte-blanche authority to broker international trade agreements without congressional amendment, a process known as fast-tracking.

“I don’t support fast-track,” Reid said. “Until it’s shown to me that trade agreements support the middle class, I’m not going to be jumping on the bandwagon.”

That Democrats are hesitant about such deals is not new. Yet Reid publicly restating his opposition days after Obama’s annual policy address and weeks into the Democrats’ new position as the minority party in the Senate highlights the divisions between the White House and Hill Democrats on fundamental policy issues as Obama plots out his final two years in office.

Republicans had heralded trade agreements as one of the key parts of Obama’s State of the Union address, citing them as a starting point for a working relationship with an administration they’ve largely panned. Yet, if the White House chooses to take that support and make trade one of the early priorities in 2015, it could make for an uncomfortable bookend with Hill Democrats, whose support was increasingly fractured at the end of last year. 

In December 2014, 139 House and 21 Senate Democrats broke from the president by opposing a year-end spending deal because they didn’t believe a bill funding the government should include policy riders that weakened Wall Street reform and what was left of campaign finance reform.

Reid’s 20-minute question-and-answer session with reporters was designed by aides as an assurance of the senator’s health, as it came just a day after his office announced he would undergo eye surgery Monday to take care of residual issues stemming from the exercise accident that hospitalized him three weeks ago.

Reid said that his doctors told him they are “extremely confident I would be fine,” and that “there’s no reason I can’t come back to work a week from Monday.”

The 75-year-old longtime senator said doctors would be fixing the bone above his eye and draining blood that had pooled in the areas around his eye as a result of the bone’s protrusion into his eye socket. 

Reid is up for reelection in 2016 and said that “at this stage, I’m fully intending to run.”

In addition to fielding multiple questions on his health, Reid spoke out on several issues of the day, including the looming Department of Homeland Security shutdown and a February speech by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress.

On the DHS issue, he said that Republicans should proceed with a clean stopgap spending bill to avoid a shutdown, and on the Netanyahu front, he confirmed that he, like the White House, was not consulted by Netanyahu or Boehner on the pending joint speech.