Ryan predicts passage of bipartisan trade promotion authority bill

A top Republican said Wednesday that he expects Congress to pass trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation this spring.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP chairman to discuss Charlottesville as domestic terrorism at hearing Trump’s isolation grows GOP lawmaker: Trump 'failing' in Charlottesville response MORE (R-Wis.) told reporters that, with President Obama’s help, the House and the Senate can pass a TPA measure with bipartisan support.

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To that end, Ryan and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), chairman of the Subcommittee on Trade, praised the White House’s ramped up efforts to generate more support among Democrats.

"These are enormous issues that speak to the future of our country and I do believe it's good for the political system that we deliver some common ground and we get some things done," he said. 

Ryan said he "wouldn’t begin to try" to pass TPA with just Republicans votes because "I want it to be bipartisan."

For their part, the two lawmakers plan to build up support within the Republican caucus for TPA.

They will hold what Ryan called "listening sessions" — similar to the dozens he held while chairman of the Budget committee — to educate their caucus and clear out any misconceptions about trade.

Tiberi said that he wants to squash the idea that with fast-track Congress would be giving the president the authority to do something that he doesn’t already have the power to do.

"What we are doing is putting the congressional stamp on what the White House already has the ability to do, negotiate trade deals," he said.

As far as timing, Ryan wouldn't provide specifics of when a fast-track bill would be ready to debut.

But said he is well aware of the constraints of the calendar with TPA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) now moving along similar timing tracks.

"It going to happen soon, and we’ve got to get moving,” Ryan said. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has expressed a similar eagerness to get a TPA bill introduced soon, and he has said legislation could be ready sometime after the Presidents Day recess later this month.

The next round of TPP talks are set for mid-March with the expectations that a deal could be struck at that time.

Ryan and Hatch are among those lawmakers crafting the latest fast-track measure with the guts of the bill introduced more than a year ago by former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and former Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on Senate Finance, is seeking some changes and Ryan said he is working with him on those issues but wouldn't provide specifics.

“We’re in active discussions with our counterparts over in the Senate and I’m optimistic about those,” Ryan said.

“We’ve got to get going pretty fast here,” he said.

Still, Ryan acknowledged that there are plenty of issues that need to be addressed on trade from questions about currency manipulation to more transparency for Congress. 

He noted, for example, that greater access for the United States into the Japanese auto and agriculture markets would help the trade argument on Capitol Hill and quell some of those currency manipulation concerns.

"The countries we have agreements with, we have a manufacturing surplus with," Ryan said.

"If you look at the countries we do not have agreements with, we have a big trade deficit with, so getting agreements is good for our workers, it's good for manufacturing it's good for agriculture."

He said he shares some of the president's same apprehensions about what might happen if currency manipulation provisions are added to the TPP.

Congress and the Obama administration must work together to seek the best way to move forward, Ryan said. 

Ryan also suggested that he is working on language that would be part of the TPA that would provide lawmakers with more and better access to the negotiating texts of the trade deals.

The issue has been a sticking point among lawmakers in both parties who say they want a more intimate look into how the TPP is shaking out.