Senate Republicans urge cooperation on trade agenda

The Senate’s top Republican is urging lawmakers to work together on trade legislation that would ensure passage of massive global agreements. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (Ky.) expressed the importance for bipartisan support of trade promotion authority (TPA), which would smooth passage of any global deals that reach Capitol Hill.

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"For all the issues that may divide Democrats and Republicans these days, there’s one thing many of us can agree on: trade is good for America,” McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

He said that Republican and Democrats want the best trade deals possible for American workers — "the kind of deals that would only be possible with truly effective and bipartisan trade legislation."

“But the details will obviously be important," he said.

"We want to ensure we get those details of that legislation right, so that we can get the best agreements possible for the American people."  

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese MORE (R-Utah) said earlier this week that progress has been made in talks over TPA legislation with the panel’s ranking member Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocratic senators introduce bill to block funding for border wall live stream Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant MORE (D-Ore.) but that those discussions continue. 

On Wednesday, he emphasized that without fast-track authority — which gives Congress an up-or-down vote on any pending trade deals — that the agenda will collapse, including the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, which could be completed this spring.

"Without renewal of effective TPA procedures, the administration will simply not be able to conclude a strong TPP agreement," Hatch said on the floor. 

Amid continued negotiations on a TPA bill Hatch argued that "if we want good trade agreements, we must have strong TPA procedures in place."

"We need to be clear on one other point: The specifics of those procedures matter — they matter a great deal."

Hatch said he recently talked to President Obama about their joint desire to get TPA through Congress so that agreements like the TPP can gain congressional approval. 

He said that he has "made it clear throughout this process that I cannot agree to any bill that would dilute the effectiveness of TPA as a tool to negotiate and enact strong trade agreements."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she is "excited about the possibilities and the great opportunity for bipartisan cooperation" on trade and that she "would like to see both Democrats and Republicans come together to address the global economy."

Meanwhile, liberal House Democrats working in concert with labor unions, environmental and faith groups to kill any fast-track authority efforts over concerns about how pending trade deals could hurt American workers. 

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), who has waged a campaign against TPA and the broader trade agenda, has said that she has enough support to stop the trade agenda.

The last fast-track bill passed in 2002 and expired in 2007.