TPP Faces Uphill Battle in Congressional Lame Duck Session - Global Trade Magazine
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  June 6th, 2016 | Written by

TPP Faces Uphill Battle in Congressional Lame Duck Session

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  • A growing number in Washington are pessimistic that TPP will receive a vote in Congress in 2016.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), on TPP: “It looks bleak for this year.”
  • Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), on TPP's chances this year: “No more than 50-50.”

The Obama administration is making a last-ditch effort to get Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a lame duck session after the November elections.

The reasoning is that, with the current president and congressional leaders in both houses of Congress being pro-trade, the time is ripe for passage. And, conversely, the likelihood of passage in 2017, after a new president takes office, is diminished.

But a growing number of voices in Washington are expressing pessimism that the TPP will receive a vote in Congress, let alone passage, in 2016.

The fact that the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, and the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, have said they are against the deal, doesn’t help its chances, according to Rep. Tom Reed (R-New York). Reed recently told National Public Radio that the votes to pass TPP simply don’t exist. “The two magic numbers down here being 218 and 60 with the House and Senate needed to pass the legislation,” he said. “And with both candidates being opposed to TPP, I don’t know how you get that number.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), who is still in the race for the Democratic nomination, has also expressed opposition to the TPP.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), a backer of fast-track trade authority and generally perceived as pro-trade agreements told AgriPulse that “the political environment to pass a trade bill is worse than any time in the time I have been in the Senate.…It looks bleak for this year” to have a TPP vote.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or fast track, which passed Congress and was signed by President Obama a year ago, gives the White House the ability to negotiate trade agreements subject to an up-or-down vote in Congress and without the introduction of congressional amendments.

In a Bloomberg article, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois): the Assistant Senate Minority Leader, said the White House shouldn’t even bother bringing the TPP for a vote in a lame duck session. “I would counsel the White House, don’t even try,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s even within the realm of possibility” moving the TPP this year,” said Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who voted for fast track last June, in an interview with Politico. “Probably even in the lame duck.”

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who also voted for fast track, may have had the most optimistic of recent assessments on the chances for TPP. His take, also in Politico: “No more than 50-50.”