Cambridge, Maryland (CNN) – A snowstorm Thursday prompted the White House to call off a keynote speech by Vice President Joe Biden at the House Democrats' policy retreat, and President Obama could get the cold shoulder from lawmakers during his planned visit Friday - at least on one pending trade issue.
The President wants Congress to give him fast track trade authority, which would make it easier for him to negotiate major trade deals, by limiting congressional input to a yes/no vote on a final bill.
Supporters say such authority allows the administration to avoid getting bogged down while pursuing agreements that would boost American exports. But prominent Democrats cite past trade deals they say have encouraged U.S. firms to ship jobs, not goods, overseas and ignored environmental protections.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has flatly rejected the current bill before Congress, highlighting her opposition during a labor rally this week and repeating it to reporters Thursday at the House retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
“Camp-Baucus in its present form is unacceptable to me,” Pelosi said, referring to the bipartisan sponsors of the bill, GOP Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who was chairman of the Finance Committee.
Pelosi insisted her opposition “is not a rejection of the President’s trade agenda; it’s a rejection of the current form of Camp-Baucus."
"We want to export products overseas, not transport jobs overseas," she said.
Pelosi's rejection follows a similar one by the top Democrat in the Senate. "Everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last month, after Obama mentioned the priority during his State of the Union address.
Meantime, there is support for trade protection authority among Republicans who control the House.
So the tougher fight, for now, is within the President’s own party.
But the problem is more squarely on the President’s shoulders, according to Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, the co-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
“I think the President needs to make a case for this to the American people," Crowley told CNN.
In an interview as the House gathering began, Crowley said the proposal “lacks a lot of the protections that I would like to see for both the environment and for labor.”
Trade is one of many issues the President may address with House Democrats during their conference. Pelosi suggested he will take the opportunity to note a successful push to raise the nation’s debt limit without attaching other, unrelated conditions the Republicans had hoped to include.