Five groups that could determine the fate of TPP

Five groups that could determine the fate of TPP

Congressional passage of a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade agreement hinges on several key endorsements that will make or break the pact on Capitol Hill.  

Republican leaders, a tight coalition of Democrats and a diverse range of business groups — all of whom worked hard to pass trade promotion authority (TPA) this summer — are needed to push through the massive 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which was completed in early October.  

Trade remains a tough sell — and the vote margins will be tight in Congress — as President Obama and his administration aim to build support for the TPP agreement and pass it before he leaves office while House and Senate lawmakers run the 2016 election-year gauntlet. 

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A clearer picture of the TPP’s future should emerge over the coming months as stakeholders complete rigorous examinations of the text, which was publicly released in early November.  

While there is little argument that the TPP represents a major part of the president’s rebalancing toward Asia strategy, there are concerns from lawmakers that the agreement doesn’t go far enough to meet the demands set by Congress in the fast-track law.  

Here’s a look at several lawmakers and business groups that could be the difference between passage and failure of the TPP. 

BUSINESS GROUPS: Support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable — three prominent pro-trade groups with long reaches into the business community — would probably propel TPP through Congress. 

But their opposition would strike a devastating blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to get TPP passed and would likely torpedo the deal.  

All of the groups, which are still evaluating the deal, were key allies in the president’s bid to wrangle enough votes to chalk up a win on TPA, which doesn’t allow Congress to amend or filibuster the TPP agreement and would expedite its passage.  

As huge proponents of fast-track and more broadly expanded trade, the business groups face a difficult decision on whether to support the final TPP product, which they spent years trying to mold. 

Don’t discount the influence of powerful pharmaceutical companies that are irate they didn’t get the 12 years of data exclusivity they wanted for biologics drugs in TPP.  

REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS: Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose RNC chair on election: We are on track to win the White House Kenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 MORE (Wis.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyTop House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents Poll finds support for independent arbiters resolving 'surprise' medical bills Businesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral MORE (Texas), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump, GOP aim to complete reshaping of federal judiciary Supreme Court fight should drive Democrats and help Biden Harris on SCOTUS fight: Ginsburg's legacy 'at stake' MORE (Ky.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (Utah) are four of the top lawmakers to watch for in the GOP.  

So far, none has endorsed the deal and all have expressed concerns about certain provisions while vowing to thoroughly examine the TPP pact.  

With support in the House most in doubt, some Republicans have said that if Ryan is willing to shepherd the deal through the lower chamber, then GOP leadership and most of his conference will probably follow his lead.  

In the Senate, losing Hatch, a co-author of fast-track, and McConnell would make the TPP road much more difficult and would likely spike the agreement until after Obama leaves office.  

Hatch hasn’t minced words on the deal, calling the TPP “woefully inadequate” and suggesting that it may need to be renegotiated to provide longer protections for biologics drugs, a notion that the White House has deemed impossible and a move that would kill the massive agreement.  

28 HOUSE DEMOCRATS: More than two-dozen Democrats, including Reps. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindWisconsin Rep. Ron Kind wins primary Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Bottom line MORE (Wis.) and Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyJudge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes House panel advances bill to ban Postal Service leaders from holding political positions Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE (Va.) who backed fast-track, are crucial to the TPP’s passage. 

The White House needs the coalition to stick together and supply a foundation of support from the president’s party. 

So far, many of the 28 have sounded amenable to the agreement, although most are withholding their support until they finish evaluating the deal.  

Connolly said recently that he feels like the 28 “are pretty solid” in their support and that many of those Democrats are probably “favorably disposed to TPP at the end of the day." 

WILDCARD DOZEN DEMOCRATS: Expectations are that there may be another dozen or so House Democrats who might be willing to support the TPP even though they didn’t back the president’s fast-track efforts.  

On top of the 28, there were 12 other Democrats who voted to extend the Democratic-backed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program while their colleagues voted it down in a maneuver to stop fast-track.  

Referred to by some trade watchers at the “Hoyer group,” that additional 12 on TAA included House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) who has backed trade deals in the past, along with Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.), Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE and Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE, both of Washington.  

Those extra Democratic votes might be needed if typically pro-trade Republicans line up against the TPP deal, with just enough lawmakers, 218, voting to pass fast-track.  

Another to watch is Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who has set high standards for the TPP but is heading up Democratic efforts to vet the trade agreement one issue at a time. 

PRO-FAST-TRACK REPUBLICANS: There are a handful of issues — the biologics protections, a tobacco carve-out, dairy and currency— that have the potential to peel off Republican lawmakers who supported fast-track but are unhappy with the final deal. 

In the Senate, tobacco-state Republicans Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs Rep. Mark Walker says he's been contacted about Liberty University vacancy MORE of North Carolina, who voted in favor of fast-track, have already said they would oppose the TPP and are working to sink the deal over provisions that exempt the industry from certain legal protections. 

It’s highly likely that some House lawmakers from North Carolina and other tobacco states who backed fast-track will oppose TPP over these concerns. 

House Republicans have expressed broader concerns about dairy, currency and pharmaceutical protections, too, and those all make for greater uncertainty on TPP support as lawmakers work to figure out where they stand.