WASHINGTON, March 25, 2015 – The signs are pointing to movement on Trade Promotion Authority next month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he wants the Senate Finance Committee to approve a TPA bill “very quickly after we come back” from the two-week-Easter recess.
“It’s a top priority for me,” McConnell said. “I’ve had a number of conversations with the president about it. It’s a top priority for him.”
Separately, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said he’s considering “one more concession” to his committee’s top Democrat on TPA with an eye toward having an agreement on a bill after the Easter recess. Hatch didn’t identify the issue but he and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have apparently been at odds on the TPA process that would be used to get to a final up-or-down vote on a trade agreement.
Hatch said he expected to meet with Wyden after the recess and hoped to get a deal. “We’re going to try and work one more concession to give him a reason to vote for it and to feel good about that vote. I’ll try my best to come up with something between now and when we get back. “
Hatch appeared confident they were close to a deal. Wyden “has told me he’s going to vote for it (TPA), but he’s trying to work out as much as he can on that bill.” Once Wyden signs off on the bill it could move through the Senate fairly quickly.
A post-recess deal would line up with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s planned visit to Washington in late April to meet with President Obama and to address a joint session of Congress. It would be somewhat awkward if TPA hasn’t gotten out of the starting gate at that point.
Japan is believed to be waiting on TPA before making critical final concessions in the ongoing negotiations over a Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hatch said he talked about TPA last week with Obama and urged him to put more pressure on Democrats to support it. Canada, in turn, is believed to be waiting on Japan before agreeing to a deal. Both countries are under heavy pressure to lower their barriers to U.S. agricultural exports.
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