House Dems say trade bills have no chance of passing

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A trio of House Democrats said Wednesday that neither fast-track nor an Asia-Pacific trade deal have any chance of passing in the lame-duck session or in the next Congress.

[by Vicki Needham | November 12, 2014 | The Hill]

The lawmakers — Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) and Alan Grayson (Fla.) — agreed that there aren't enough votes in the House to pass trade promotion authority, which would pave the way for smooth approval of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

"Fast-track doesn't have support in the current Congress and won’t have support in the next Congress," DeLauro said in a call with reporters. "The votes are not there."

Plus, they argued, why would Republicans want to give President Obama trade powers that won't allow Congress to amend any trade agreement that reaches Capitol Hill?

Slaughter said the president has "got trouble here in Washington" amid a lack of support for fast-track and TPP.

Still, House and Senate Republicans have placed trade promotion authority at the top of the trade agenda.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is in line to take over the Senate Finance Committee, has said it remains a top agenda item to complete in the next Congress.

As expected, the TPP negotiators failed to finalize an agreement despite Obama's push earlier this year to complete the long-awaited deal by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman had recently confirmed that, despite months of steady progress, there were still outstanding issues to tackle, especially between the United States and Japan.

The three Democrats deemed TPP doomed in Congress because it doesn't include a chapter dealing with currency manipulation issues.

A majority of lawmakers in both chambers have said that the trade deals should lay out ways to identify and enforce internationally recognized currency rules to stop foreign countries from gaining a global advantage.

Lori Wallach, head of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said the midterms elections that elevated Senate Republicans into the majority didn't "fix the GOP leadership’s math problem with finding enough votes in the House."

She also questioned whether GOP leaders would be willing to take a party-line vote and give fast-track for a Democratic president.

"It's an interesting political problem," she said.

While the White House has urged Congress to grant the president with trade promotion authority, Froman and others have said they want to see lawmakers produce a bipartisan bill.

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