House Republican on trade bill: We have the votes

Greg Nash

House Republicans are confident they will be able to pass a contentious trade bill.

“We do have the votes to pass the bill,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) Wednesday. “We are going to pass this piece of legislation.”

{mosads}With President Obama working to sway skeptical Democrats to back “fast-track” trade legislation, Republican backers at the Capitol painted the upcoming vote as a critical inflection point for the U.S. within the global economy.

“This is a crossroads right now for America,” said Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), who said the fate of the legislation would determine “whether or not we are leaders.”

The trade bill, recently hammered out by lead tax writers in the House and Senate, would limit Congress to an up-or-down vote on trade agreements negotiated by presidential administrations. Backers of the bill say the measure would help the president finalize trade pacts, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with several nations in the Asia-Pacific.

Sessions said he and other Republicans have mounted a concerted sales effort to convince colleagues to back the fast-track legislation, otherwise known as trade promotion authority. He singled out Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and fellow tax writer Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) as crucial advocates.

“This is a sales team, that’s what this is,” he said.

Despite that sales effort, a final vote in the House is expected to need some Democratic support to gain passage. And the debate in that party on the matter is running hot.

And Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered more tempered language Tuesday morning.

“This bill has a long way to go in both the House and the Senate, and I wish them well,” he said. “We need to get this passed.”  

Critics of the deal, including prominent liberals and labor unions, have launched an intense effort to kill the bill, arguing the TPP would hurt workers in the U.S. and that it lacks worker and environmental protections.

The standoff has led to a particularly visible rift between Obama and some prominent Democrats. On Tuesday, the president said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a vocal critic of the trade deal, was “wrong” on the issue.

“When you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts they are wrong,” he said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball.”

In a message to backers, Warren swung back Wednesday, complaining that the terms of the trade pact are not yet public, and the fast-track legislation would bind the hands of Congress to alter problematic provisions.

“We’ve all seen the tricks and traps that corporations hide in the fine print of contracts. We’ve all seen the provisions they slip into legislation to rig the game in their favor,” she said. “Now just imagine what they have done working behind closed doors with TPP.”

The Senate Finance Committee is slated to consider the fast-track legislation Wednesday, with the House Ways and Means Committee to follow suit Thursday.

Tags Boehner Dave Reichert Elizabeth Warren Fast track John Boehner Paul Ryan
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