Durbin doubts passage of fast-track authority this year

The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat says he doesn’t expect Congress to push through expanded trade powers for President Obama this year.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told the Chicago Tribune it is "very unlikely" the White House would see the legislation passed this year.

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"I think Harry Reid's statement was unequivocal, and that makes it very unlikely the president will be able to move this this year," Durbin said in an interview with Tribune columnist Melissa Harris published Sunday. 

Durbin said he was “critical and skeptical" of the trade promotion authority (TPA) the White House has requested to help facilitate negotiations on two massive global trade deals.

"It is a take-it-or-leave-it approach to trade agreements, which really deals members of Congress and their concerns out of the picture."

Many congressional Democrats are opposing fast-track authority, putting the president’s massive trade agenda in jeopardy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said recently that he is against fast track and that "everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now."

Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she sees no future for a bill introduced in January by former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). 

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, has said that any legislation must set out a specific framework for congressional involvement, especially amid widespread complaints about a lack of transparency in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he plans to take his time with a TPA bill and talk to wary Democrats about how to proceed, which would likely yield new legislation. 

TPA, also called fast-track, allows negotiated trade agreements to go through Congress without amendment on an up-or-down vote.

While the legislation would give the White House the ability to make those deals, U.S trade officials take guidance from Congress as to what they will or won't accept. 

For example, a majority in Congress support currency manipulation provisions, which haven't been discussed on the TPP deal.

Also, nations involved in trade deals want a guarantee that Congress wouldn't change the deals. 

Congress could turn back the agreements or yank TPA if they aren't happy with final agreements.

There are two huge trade agreements in talks — the TPP that includes Asian and South American nations — as well was a deal with the European Union, which is set to resume talks next month.