The Hill: This week: Race to finish trade before recess


Congress will try to move President Obama's trade agenda to the finish line before they rush out for a holiday recess.

[Reposted from The Hill  |  Cristina Marcos  |  Juen 22, 2015]

A contentious trade package is set to dominate the Senate's schedule this week, as lawmakers try once again to pass a 'fast track' trade bill. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set up the upper chamber to take a procedural vote on a stand-alone trade promotion authority (TPA) bill as early as Tuesday. 

Under the Republican leader's plan, the Senate would also take up Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), meant to help workers impacted by trade deals, as part of a trade preferences bill. 

The Senate previously passed TAA and TPA together as one larger trade bill, and it's unclear if Senate Democrats, who have suggested the two should move together, will support McConnell's push to separate the proposals. 

But, McConnell sought to reassure Democrats that TAA could still pass, asking lawmakers to have "a little faith." 

"Assuming everyone has a little faith and votes the same they did a few weeks ago, we'll be able to get all of those bills to the president soon," he added. 

Under McConnell's plan, the Senate would take up TPA and then the trade preferences bill including TAA. The TAA-trade preferences bill would then go to the House as soon as this week.

2016 spending fight

The House will plow forward with the annual appropriations process even though the Senate appears unlikely to pass any individual spending bills for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Senate Democrats last week blocked consideration of a 2016 spending measure for the Pentagon as part of a strategy to force Republicans to start budget negotiations.

But Republicans aren’t interested in a “budget summit” at this point. The House will take up Interior Department spending this week - the seventh out of 12 annual appropriations bills so far this year.

House members have poured hours of effort, often late into the night, debating unlimited numbers of amendments to each appropriations bill. Yet not a single one of the individual 2016 appropriations bills done under so-called “regular order” in the House seems likely to see the light of day in the Senate.

The House Interior Department appropriations bill cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget by nine percent from the current enacted spending level. It also includes provisions to limit EPA rulemaking on climate change and navigable waters.

Export-Import Bank

Notably missing from this week’s schedule in either chamber is a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

The charter for the bank, which finances U.S. exports abroad, expires on June 30. This week would be the last chance for Congress to pass a reauthorization before the deadline, since lawmakers will be away next week for the July 4 recess.

Nonetheless, GOP leaders appear poised to let the bank expire. Many top House Republicans, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) have sided with conservative groups who view the bank as a symbol of “crony capitalism.”

Supporters may try to attach an Export-Import bank extension to the highway-funding bill next month.


The House will not be in session.

The Senate will convene Monday at 3 p.m. for leader remarks and morning business. Senators are expected to vote on two nominations at 5:30 p.m.: Peter Neffenger to take over the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Daniel Elliott III's nomination to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board.

The vote on Neffenger comes in the wake of a report that found that TSA agents failed to find fake bombs and weapons in internal tests at nearly all of America's busiest airports. 


The House will meet at noon for morning hour debate and 2 p.m. for legislative business. Votes on noncontroversial bills considered under suspension of the rules, as well as legislation to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the healthcare law, will be at 6:30 p.m.

The Senate could take a procedural vote on a motion to concur with the House-passed TPA bill. Senators will likely also recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly policy lunches. 


The House will vote on legislation to allow judicial review of any final EPA regulations targeting power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. 

The Senate may still be considering trade legislation.


The House will begin consideration of the Interior Department appropriations bill. Lawmakers will likely be up late into the night debating an unlimited number of amendments.

The Senate will likely finish up votes on trade before adjourning for the week.


The Senate is not expected to be in session.

The House will wrap up votes on the Interior Department spending bill. If it has not done so earlier in the week, the House may also consider legislation regarding President Obama’s trade agenda.

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