Why Did the White House Cancel the Rose Garden Bill Signing Ceremony for the Free Trade Agreements?

Oct 21, 2011 11:28am

Why did the White House cancel a Rose Garden bill-signing for the Free Trade Agreements, opting instead for a behind-closed-doors event?

On Tuesday, the White House issued a press release announcing that “On Friday, October 21st, President Obama will sign the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements and the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers in the Oval Office before making remarks in the Rose Garden. In his remarks, President Obama will underscore that these trade agreements will significantly boost American exports, support tens of thousands of American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property. President Obama will be joined in the Rose Garden by business and labor leaders as well as workers who will benefit from these bills.”

Then on Thursday afternoon an “UPDATED” press release went out stating that instead, “President Obama will sign the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements and the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers in the Oval Office. There will be a stills only pool spray of the signings. The President will no longer make remarks in the Rose Garden following the signings.”

Why?

White House officials say the president’s schedule is too busy. (Though, it should be noted, he made time to greet labor leaders and workers in the Rose Garden who had planned to attend the signing ceremony. That event, however, was off-limits to press.)

Republicans on the Hill say that they suspect the White House wanted to avoid a big splashy image of Democrats and Republicans working together to get something done for the economy – since that steps on the president’s narrative that the Republicans are obstructionist.

(Speaking of which, last night Senate Republicans blocked the $35 billion jobs bill provision to provide funding for teachers, fire fighters and police officers because it was paid for by a 0.5% tax increase on incomes over $1 million.)

White House officials deny that, saying that the reason for the canceled Rose Garden remarks “will be clear in due time.”

In his August bus tour through the Midwest, President Obama repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Free Trade Agreements.

Congress did so, with overwhelming Republican support and considerable Democratic opposition. More House Democrats voted against the Free Trade Agreements than for them.

On October 13, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., credited his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., with the trade bills’ passage.

“I also want the record to be spread with the fact that as far as congressional action, this legislation would not have happened but for the Republican leader,” Reid said. “He has been laser focused for a long time, and there were some things we had to work through to get here, but one of the reasons I did what I did to help move this along is because of his feelings about the importance of this legislation.”

McConnell’s office says he was not invited to the Rose Garden Ceremony. Before it was canceled, I mean.

-Jake Tapper

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