Senate leaders clash on TPP ‘fast track’ authority

A show-down is looming in the Senate between party leaders, as Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to thwart Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) plan to make legislation on “fast-track” trade promotion the next item on the upper-chamber’s agenda. The Republican majority leader says that he has “been working closely with the White House”, on hurrying up a bill that would cede Congressional authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the President, in the interest of time.

The Senate minority leader wants FISA reform, a set of overseas surveillance laws which expire June 1, and renewal of interstate highway funding, expiring May 31st, in return from Senate Republicans for his caucus’ support of giving the White House control over TPP negotiations. McConnell has called for a five-year extension of the current FISA laws.

Sixty votes will be needed in the Senate to pass “fast track” TPP, and it’s uncertain whether there will be enough votes to get it done. There are 54 seats occupied by Republicans, and 7 Democratic senators have voted ‘yes’ to advance the bill out of the Finance Committee. So, Senate approval looks somewhat favorable but nothing is guaranteed.

In the House of Representatives, uncertainty of the bill’s passage is higher. 217 votes will be needed and only 16 Democrats have signaled their support so far. An estimated 180–200 House Republicans will vote in favor, but that still leaves the bill’s chances of approval up in the air.

The President still has time to lobby House members though, as a vote will not come in the lower-chamber until after Congress’ Memorial Day recess.


[Huffington Post] [Bloomberg] [Photo courtesy AP]