McConnell plots trade path with Obama

McConnell plots trade path with Obama
© Francis Rivera

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal Pelosi, Schumer say White House declined T coronavirus deal COVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he and Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Bottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future MORE (R-Ohio) have consulted with President Obama on passing fast-track trade authority after it suffered a big setback last week.

McConnell believes the trade package passed by the Senate in May can still make it to Obama’s desk despite getting blown up in the House last week.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The speaker and I have spoken with the president about the way forward on trade,” McConnell told reporters. “It’s still my hope that we can achieve what we’ve set out to achieve together, which is to get a six-year trade promotion authority bill in place that will advantage the next occupant of the White House as well as this one.”

The House on Friday narrowly passed fast-track authority but it defeated accompanying legislation to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program aiding workers displaced by foreign competition. Both measures needed to be approved for the package to be sent to Obama.

The Senate passed fast-track and TAA in a single passage and it’s unclear whether the Senate would accept sending only trade promotion authority to the White House. The administration has also insisted the two issues should be paired.

“Obviously there was a malfunction over in the House on Friday that we all watched with great interest and we’re not giving up. We still think there may be a path forward to get an achievement here that we’d like to get,” McConnell said.

The House on Tuesday passed an extension giving them until the end of July to figure out how to finish work on Obama’s trade agenda.

“We’ve not given up passing TPA. We think it’s an important accomplishment for the country,” McConnell said.

He emphasized the national security implications of using fast-track to pass a massive trade deal with 11 other countries known as the Trans Pacific Partnership later this Congress.

“We think it’s absolutely essential not only for our commercial advantage but also it has an important defense and foreign policy component to it as the countries on the Asian Pacific rim would like to have a greater relationship with us as a hedge against an increasingly expansive China,” he said.

But McConnell declined to reveal his precise plans.

“We’ll let you know the way forward,” he said.  

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) suggested that the onus was on Obama and Democrats to find the votes to get the trade package across the finish line. 

“We happen to agree with him on the policy on this, and we're working with the White House,” he said. “But ultimately the responsibility to produce the votes has to fall to the president and to the White House and to Democrats.”

House Republicans on Tuesday voted to give lawmakers until the end of July to figure out how to pass the trade package. 

Jordain Carney contributed.  

This story was updated at 7:18 p.m.