Trans-Pacific Partnership Update

The bill that would grant President Obama trade promotion authority (fast-track) is being marked up today.  That refers to the process where the initial bill is modified, re-written and amended before it comes up for a vote.   Although the bipartisan sponsorship is encouraging, passage is still an uphill fight. 

The White House is lobbying against efforts to modify the bill by including an actionable "currency manipulation clause".  The Administration is stepping up its efforts to promote the legislation, but appear to be falling shy.  Important Democrat Party constituents, like labor and environmental groups, are opposed to the trade agreement in principle. 

In the Senate, of note Henry Reid, the outgoing minority leader, and Elizabeth Warren are leading the opposition.  Of the dozen Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee less than half are supporting  the trade promotion authority bill.  Still passage in the Senate is seen easier than in the House of Representatives. 

The House is going to be a battle.  A simple majority is needed which is 218 votes.  The key calculus is how many of the 247 Republicans will oppose the measure that the leadership will support and how many Democrats can Obama secure. 

Last year, House Speaker Boehner said that around 50 Democrat votes will be needed.  That may be a bit of an exaggeration.  It would imply that 79 Republicans will not support the measure.  Current estimates suggest that the number may be in the 25-50 range. 

However, the support from the Democrats in the House is poor.  Some vote-counters see 10-15 Democrats may support the measure.   This can support Republican defections at the lower end of the estimates.  At the same time, the lack of meaningful Democrat support could drain the enthusiasm of the Republican leadership that is in no hurry in any event to give the President what could be one of his few legislative successes before the November 2016 election.  

An important card that has not been played has been Hillary Clinton, the leading presidential candidate.  Yesterday she spoke in generalities, but some heard sympathy for the opposition, without challenging Obama directly.   She was quoted saying that ""Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security."  This would seem to set a high bar for her support.  In these matters it is not just support that counts but enthusiastic support.   Ironically, Obama might be able to outflank Hillary Clinton in this regard by getting the Bill Clinton, who helped usher in NAFTA, to make calls to Democrats in the House. 

Trans-Pacific Partnership Update Trans-Pacific Partnership Update Reviewed by Marc Chandler on April 22, 2015 Rating: 5
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