Reid signals slight openness to fast-track authority

The Senate’s top Democrat signaled some openness to considering legislation that would give President Obama expanded trade powers.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake MORE (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he would “be happy to take a look at” a trade promotion authority bill.

Still, he tempered his comments, which reflected his general dislike for trade agreements.

“We’ll have to see,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’m not a big fan of fast-track, I think trade agreements of the past have not been good for American workers."

Despite Reid's somewhat encouraging words a bill isn’t expected to be taken up during the lame-duck session.

Reid has a long history of voting against trade deals, even though, as the upper chamber’s leader, he has allowed agreements to reach the floor for debate and passage.

“We continue to believe that trade is an area where the Administration and Congress can work in lockstep with one another," said a spokesman from the U.S. Trade Representative's office.

"That’s why we have been pleased to see that TPA, the mechanism Congress uses to give the Administration its marching orders on trade negotiations, has continually been cited as a potential area for bipartisan cooperation."

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

Since then, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, which started in 2008, have plodded along while negotiations started up between the United States and the European Union. 

Meanwhile, Republicans have sounded a more optimistic tone about the future of providing fast-track, which would expedite any trade deals through Congress.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the likely chairman of the Senate Finance Commitee, has said the issue tops his agenda. 

The last fast-track bill expired in 2007. The issue has always been a difficult lift for lawmakers.

Lawmakers are focusing primarily on taxes and budget measures, including an omnibus package that would fund the government in full for 2015. 

Still, business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, continue to make their case for Congress to take up a fast-track bill as soon as possible, especially as TPP talks progress.

Also, there is still plenty of opposition from House Democrats, who argue that pending deals like the TPP are being crafted using old trade models that they say hurt the U.S. economy and killed jobs. 

This post was updated at 9:45 p.m.