Lawmakers near deal to give Obama fast-track power

House and Senate negotiators are close to an agreement that would give President Obama crucial authority to fast-track approval of major international trade deals now in the works, The New York Times reports.

The congressional discussions come as negotiators wrap up talks in support of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

At issue is whether Congress should grant Obama trade promotion authority (TPA). Under TPA or fast-track authority, administration negotiators send completed trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote, affording lawmakers no opportunity to submit amendments.

More than 170 House members came out against fast-track authority last month, with many arguing that the trade talks have been too secretive and that Congress should play a greater role in the process, The Hill reported at the time.

However, the Times, citing a source with knowledge of the congressional discussions, says a deal could soon be struck.

"A congressional aide close to the negotiations said that both sides had made significant progress on reaching a fast-track deal, also known as trade-promotion authority," writes the Times’s Annie Lowrey. “But the aide, who declined to speak on the record because of the delicate nature of the talks, emphasized that an agreement was not complete.”

Fast-track authority is considered critical for passage of the trade deals, as international negotiators are generally reluctant to sign off on an agreement that could later be changed via an amendment process.

Check out The New York Times’s full story here.