The House of Representatives is reportedly nearing a vote on “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which could come as soon as Friday.
Even as Democratic leaders huddled in the Capitol over ways to help House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner move a package of trade bills to a vote, the Republican-controlled House Rules Committee was debating steps on trade that upset some Democrats.
Those included language that would ensure trade agreements do not lead to changes in U.S. laws on immigration or climate change, addressing pet concerns of some Republicans. They were among more than 60 amendments suggested.
House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (WI-R) entered an amendment to limit the ability to add climate-change language to any trade bill that would require a change in U.S. law. The move was an attempt to shore up support from skeptical republicans, many of whom are wary of providing additional authority to the Obama Administration.
It is not uncommon to see a flurry of back and forth “horse trading” in the run up to what is expected to be a contentious vote. Many democrats oppose free trade in general on concerns about labor rights, wage rights and the off-shoring of jobs.
Just earlier this week the fate of TPA was fully uncertain, as the number of votes from either party did not seem sufficient to pass. House Speakers shy away from introducing bills for a vote unless passage is all but assured. A recent example of a bill that never even received a vote was the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill which passed in the Senate but was not taken up in the House.
The number of proposed amendments likely signals that a large number of votes have been secured by tying support to language, like in the Ryan Amendment, which will handcuff Obama’s ability to do certain things with fast tracked trade deals.
The secrecy surrounding ObamaTrade has been a concern for a large number of citizen groups across all ideological lines. Many are also unhappy with foreign countries hiring former congressional leaders to assist in pro-ObamaTrade lobbying.[Reuters][The Hill][The Observer]