Ahead of a Senate vote on a controversial "fast-track" trade bill, Arizona Sen. John McCain is criticizing his Democratic colleagues' opposition to the legislation that would speed up congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
"Americans can't afford to wall itself off from the vast opportunities that lie outside our borders, where 95 percent of the world's consumers live," McCain said Saturday in a video. "But that's what many Senate Democrats are suggesting we do in their transparent effort to curry favor with labor bosses. They're choosing to pretend the global economy doesn't exist and to forfeit the opportunity to remain the world's leading economy far into the future."
Democrats blocked the first attempt at the fast-track legislation's passage Tuesday, with Delaware Sen. Tom Carper the only Democrat to cast his vote to begin debate on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. TPA would allow Congress to give an up-or-down vote on any international trade deal negotiated by the White House, but it would prohibit the legislative body from changing individual provisions.
When the Senate passed two trade-related bills favored by Democrats Thursday, they paved the way for a second attempt at the TPA legislation. And Republicans are determined to see it through.
"Passing TPA would be powerful proof of our enduring commitment to American leadership in defense of rules and principles that extend security, liberty and prosperity across the globe," McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chair, said in his address. "These trade agreements open markets that have long been protected from American competition. Why squander a historic opportunity to sell more American products and know-how and create more high-paying American jobs? That's crazy."
The White House has pushed aggressively for this legislation, especially as negotiations with Pacific Rim countries over TPP, the massive free-trade deal involving the United States and 11 other nations in the Asia Pacific region, have ramped up in recent weeks.
And the president himself has criticized Democratic naysayers like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who Mr. Obama has knocked as engaging in "pure speculation" when it came to her objections to TPA.
"I don't often quote President Obama," McCain said. "But it was hard to argue with him when he said the other day that Democratic protectionists were just 'making stuff up' and their arguments didn't 'stand the test of fact and scrutiny.'"
The Arizona senator continued to support the White House stance: "'You don't make change through slogans. You don't make change through ignoring realities,' the president said. Republicans agree."
"Democrats opposing these agreements are telling us to be afraid," McCain told viewers. "Be afraid to keep our word. Be afraid of our challenges and opportunities. Be afraid to compete fairly. Be afraid to lead."
The debate on the fast-track legislation is expected on the Senate floor next week, though support for trade promotion authority by House Democrats is still questionable.
In his own address, President Obama took on problems surrounding poverty, an issue that has been thrust in the spotlight after violence in cities like Baltimore sparked a national conversation on income inequality.
"Some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them," Mr. Obama said in a video address. "That's true of rural communities with chronic poverty. That's true of some manufacturing communities that suffered after the plants they depended on closed their doors. It's true of some suburbs and inner cities, where jobs can be hard to find and harder to get to."
"That sense of unfairness and powerlessness has helped to fuel the kind of unrest that we've seen in places like Baltimore, Ferguson and New York," the president continued. "It has many causes -- from a basic lack of opportunity to groups feeling unfairly targeted by police - which means there's no single solution."
The chief executive touted some of the strides his administration has made in combating poverty.
"From expanding tax cuts for working parents, to raising high school graduation rates, to helping millions of Americans secure health insurance when they didn't have it just a few years ago -- our actions are making a difference," Mr. Obama said.
The president also previewed his upcoming trip to Camden, New Jersey, a community that consistently has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. He intends to highlight some of the police force's advancements in not only reducing crime but establishing trust with the communities they serve.
"Whether we are Democrats, Republicans or independents; whether we live in one of our poorest communities, one of our wealthiest, or anywhere in between, we all want our country to be one where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded," the president said. "We want a place where you can make it if you try."