Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) was a key ally of US President Barack Obama, backing him in 2004 when he ran for the Senate, but now he and all other Chicago Democrats but one are turning their back on the lame-duck president as he makes possibly his last big request for support.
Obama is calling for Democrats to back him in a vote on Friday to give him "fast track" negotiating authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade accord, which critics warn will harm local business, reports the Washington Post on Friday.
But Democrats including even Davis, who said of Obama, "he’s a person that I have supported pretty much straight down the line," have turned down the president who launched his political career in Chicago.
Illinois has traditionally been the source of a large Democratic presence for the Midwest, with Chicago's Democrat presence dominating the state's political bent despite the city's small size compared to the largely Republican remainder of Illinois.
Tellingly, only one of the nine House Democrats representing Chicago and its suburbs have pledged to back the trade deal in the vote. Out of all 188 House Democrats, only 20 total have likewise vowed their support, whereas some have even discussed sabotaging the motion.
Davis explained the opposition, saying, "I recognize that the president does indeed want this legislation passed. The people who vote for me in the 7th District have their position, and accurate, right, wrong, whatever – it’s the position of the people."
His interests are as much for self-survival as they are democratic, with Davis adding, "fortunately for the president, he will not have to run again. Our situations are different. If you’ve got to go before the voters for election, you want to be as close to them as you possibly can."
"We admire him – not here"
Democrats have rejected Obama's promises that trade deals negotiated under the new authority he is requesting, which will block amendments or filibusters, will include thorough protection for workers and domestic industry.
Instead, they are backing the position of the traditional Democratic party supporters in the labor unions and leftist activist groups.
Representative Jan Schakowsky of Chicago described her opposition, saying of Obama: "once he said on television, 'look, even some of my longest-term supporters are on the other side,' and I sort of waved at the TV."
"We’re with the president on so many other things. …We have the greatest admiration and affection and, by and large, support for the president. Not here," said Schakowsky.
Many in Chicago have questioned whether fast-track authority for the trade deal will provide decent-paying local jobs, noting that provisions should be included to prevent currency manipulation by other countries.
The White House has responded to such demands for provisions by threatening to veto.
The sole Democrat in Chicago supporting Obama on the move is Representative Mike Quigley, whose stance has earned him protests from irate workers.
But Quigley is being rewarded by Obama, who took him as one of only four House Democrats who support the trade agreement to join him last week to hobnob at the G-7 talks in Germany.
Tova Dvorin contributed to this report.