By Vicki Needham - 12/18/15 03:18 PM EST
President Obama expressed optimism at a Friday press conference that Congress can approve a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal.
Obama called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "a big deal" and acknowledged that opponents in both parties make for “an interesting situation."
The president argued that the trade pact between the United States and 11 other nations meets the bar he set for the agreement and is consistent with what he promised — major commitments on labor and the environment along with the elimination of thousands of tariffs on U.S. exports. Obama repeated his call that the TPP is the "most progressive trade deal in history."
Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanPaul Ryan rewrites 50 years of poverty history Peter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay Ryan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight MORE (R-Wis) said earlier this week that he wants to take a vote as soon as possible on the expansive Pacific Rim trade agreement if the pact lives up to the promises made by the White House.
He said he doesn't have a set date in mind but that the TPP is “very important” and "has a lot of promise” because it gives the United States the ability to write the rules of global trade in the fastest growing region in the world.
Ryan's comments struck a different tone than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPeter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay Reid: Trump is a 'hateful con man' McAuliffe: Clinton won't move TPP without changes MORE (R-Ky.), who said last week that Obama would be making a "big mistake" if he sought a vote on the TPP before the 2016 elections.
But Obama also said that a presidential election year can easily skew the best-laid legislative plans with lawmakers "looking over their shoulders" amid worries about the primaries.
"That makes it harder" to make strides on the agenda, he said.