Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to close the door Thursday on the Senate taking up the Obama administration's signature Asia-Pacific trade deal during what's left of the president's term.
[Jordain Carney| August 25, 2016 | The Hill]
"The current agreement, the Trans-Pacific [Partnership], which has some serious flaws, will not be acted upon this year," McConnell said at the Kentucky State Farm Bureau breakfast Thursday.
But McConnell said that while the trade agreement won't get approved in its current form, it could pass next year with some changes.
"It will still be around. It can be massaged, changed, worked on during the next administration," he said.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trumpand Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton have both come out against the agreement. The trade fight has also spilled over into the battle for the Senate as Republicans defend 24 Senate seats, with vulnerable GOP Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) coming out against the deal.
McConnell helped spearhead the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) through the Senate last year. The law allows any future trade deal to be fast-tracked through Congress without changes. The Kentucky Republican joked Thursday that passing the TPA was a "rather unusual experience."
"I was aligned with Barack Obama against [Sen.] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.]," he said. "Almost an out-of-body experience, now that I think about it."
Obama has pledged to push the deal until he leaves office, including sending a drafting document to lawmakers earlier this month, but it has lost momentum on Capitol Hill.
McConnell previously said it was unlikely the deal would get a vote, and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said the agreement doesn't have the votes to pass the House. Top Senate Democrats are also vocal opponents.