WASHINGTON, May 5, 2015 – Senate Republicans insist they will move forward with passing a fast-track trade bill despite Democratic threats to slow it down.
A strong opponent of President Obama’s trade agenda, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that the Senate doesn’t have time to consider the bill before June because of the looming expiration of highway funding and surveillance laws.
Reid stopped short of saying that he has the 41 votes necessary to block Republican leaders from moving the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill (S 995), which would clear the way for the Obama administration to wrap up negotiations on a 12-nation Pacific Rim agreement.
But Reid expressed confidence that he can stop Republicans from passing TPA without also moving three other trade bills, including a Customs enforcement bill and another that would reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs.
“We feel strongly enough, enough of us, that we would not allow that to happen,” Reid told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he plans to bring up the TPA legislation as soon as the Senate finishes with a bill to provide for review of a nuclear agreement with Iran. Work on that bill has been bogged down in a GOP fight over amendments.
Asked if he had the votes to break a possible Democratic filibuster on TPA, McConnell said, “We sure hope so. We’re working it hard. It’s almost been an out-of-body experience but we’ve been working closely with the White House. We agree on this and we’re working together to try to get it across the finish line. “
McConnell did not say when he planned to move the other trade bills that Reid is insisting should be considered in tandem with TPA.
Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said McConnell wants to bring up the TPA bill later this week, but Reid said the Iran debate is likely to run into next week.
The committee approved the TPA bill with seven Democratic votes, 20-6. Republicans control 54 votes on the Senate floor. The six-year bill would ensure that new trade deals get an up-or-down vote in Congress without threat of amendment.