Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, said he would support giving so-called "fast-track" powers, which are meant to accelerate the process for negotiating and ratifying new trade agreements, to a "generic Democrat" in the White House. But he would oppose them for Obama, whom he repeatedly criticized in his remarks on domestic and foreign policy issues, and whom he called a worse president than even Jimmy Carter.
"I am not for giving this president fast-track authority," Jindal told the group, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, which on Thursday evening included economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore and conservative commentator Larry Kudlow, along with a few dozen others. "I don't trust this president."
Animosity toward Obama appears to be one of the contributing factors to a drop-off in Republican support for fast-track authority in the House. In the past two decades, around 90 percent of Republican representatives have typically backed measures to advance trade deals. A little more than 75 percent supported a new fast-track authority - which would extend to Obama and whoever follows him in office - in votes this month.
Still, Republicans supplied the overwhelming majority of votes to pass fast-track in the House, and they will need to break heavily in favor of the bill if it is to pass the Senate. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are working with the White House to find the votes.
At the dinner, Jindal was asked if it hurt Republicans, as a party, to work with Obama on the trade deal. He did not say no. "Every time there's a conservative fight, (congressional Republicans) are quick to waive the white flag of surrender," he said. He added: "I wish they'd show the same fight with the stuff we campaigned on," such as repealing the president's signature health-care law.
He was also asked if he would support fast-track for Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state who is the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, should she be elected. He demurred. "Can we say someone other than Hillary?" he asked. He would be fine, he reiterated, with giving a generic Democrat that authority.