Himes becomes 16th Dem to back fast-track

Another House Democrat announced Wednesday that he will back fast-track authority, giving President Obama 16 members of his own party supporting his ambitious trade agenda.

Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesSEC's Clayton demurs on firing of Manhattan US attorney he would replace Democrats face tough questions with Bolton Democrats debate how and when to get House back in action MORE (D-Conn.) said he read the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) from top to bottom and discussed the issue with a long list of experts and stakeholders, from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, which is vigorously pushing against fast-track.

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The Hill’s whip list now has 16 Democrats as publicly supporting trade promotion authority (TPA), also known as fast-track, that provides Obama, and the next president, enhanced power to negotiate new trade agreements. 

Several Democrats, including Reps. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) and Don Beyer (Va.), who are among lawmakers expected to back the president, remain quiet about whether they will throw their support behind the White House, according to aides. 

The president told Himes in a Monday call that he has 20 House Democrats prepared to support a Senate-passed fast-track bill, according to the Wall Street Journal. The legislation will streamline passage of massive trade deals like the TPP.

Himes said that, in the end, the decision hinged on the positive economic impact he thinks the emerging TPP would have on his district. Connecticut exports $16 billion of goods per year, he said, and $12 billion comes from his district. 

“I'll probably be very lonely in New England,” Himes said by phone, “but my district is a very strong exporting district.” 

“It's got the possibility of increasing exports and growing jobs.”

The House is expected to take up the legislation as early as next week