Reid expresses opposition to trade promotion authority

The Senate’s top Democrat said he won't consider giving President Obama expanded trade powers until he is convinced that far-reaching trade agreements will help the middle class.

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (D-Nev.) said Thursday that he is opposed to trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track, over concerns that the expanded trade deals will harm U.S. workers.  

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“I’ve always been suspect my entire career in Congress of these trade agreements,” Reid said during his first public appearance on Capitol Hill since an accident sidelined him earlier this month. 

"I don’t support fast-track because I have not been shown that trade agreements have helped the middle class," he told reporters. 

He said he would "be happy to keep my eyes wide open, and if something changes I’ll change."

"But until it’s shown to me that the trade agreements help the middle class, I’m not going to be jumping on the bandwagon.”

This is not the first time that Reid has thrown cold water on Obama's efforts to push for trade promotion authority that would help smooth the approval of two major global deals that could reach Capitol Hill before the president leaves office. 

Reid has said that the trade agreements of the past have not been good for U.S. workers, a central complaint of many Democrats. 

But despite his opposition in the past, he has allowed agreements to reach the floor for debate and passage.

House and Senate Republicans have said they want to work with the White House on passing fast-track and helping him gain approval for deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been in the works for more than five years. 

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, the president called on both parties to give him the powers to negotiate the deals. Fast-track, which faces broad Democratic opposition, would give Congress an up-or-down vote on any trade deal that reaches Capitol Hill.

Congress last approved three deals in 2011: South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, have each said the issue is atop their agenda and that they want to complete trade promotion authority early this year.

The last fast-track bill expired in 2007.