Vilsack confident Congress will pass Pacific trade deal

Vilsack confident Congress will pass Pacific trade deal
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A top Obama administration official on Tuesday expressed confidence that Congress will pass a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade agreement. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE said that the White House will mount an economic and strategic argument aimed at convincing House and Senate lawmakers to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in what is expected to be a bruising fight on Capitol Hill. 

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Vilsack said that in the end "a majority of both the Senate and the House will see the wisdom of getting this thing through. That’s the expectation. That’s the belief."

While he expects a close vote on the trade agreement, "I’m optimistic and hopeful that we’re going to prevail," Vilsack told reporters on a conference call. 

The White House intends to cast a wide net in an effort to gather enough votes to pass the TPP as soon as possible, he said. 

The plan is to talk to Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill who are inclined to support the TPP because the 12-nation deal will raise U.S. incomes, create more and better paying jobs, boost agriculture, promote improved security in the Asia-Pacific region.

"I think these are very powerful and persuasive arguments and I think, frankly, there are a substantial number of both the Senate and the House that would be and ought to be open to such an argument and I would be surprised if they wouldn’t be willing to listen," Vilsack said. 

He said he hopes that Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill McGrath campaign staffers to join union Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ky.) understand that any delay will be costly to the U.S. economy, especially U.S. agriculture that is already at a tariff disadvantage in some sectors across the Pacific Rim.

Congressional leaders have said that the TPP deal is most likely to get a vote in the lame-duck session after the November elections. 

The message to Congress is that "we need to get this done and get this done quickly," Vilsack said. 

Votes on the TPP are likely to look similar to that of the trade promotion authority legislation passed by Congress last summer, Vilsack said.

The fast-track trade measure was supported by a majority of Republicans in both chambers. Only 28 Democrats in the House backed the effort that streamlines the TPP's consideration in Congress, giving lawmakers an up-or-down vote with no opportunity to amend the deal.

Last week, Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), a key House Democrat and ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, announced that he can't support the TPP as negotiated.

Many Democrats argue that the TPP will lower wages and lead to widespread job losses across industries vulnerable to shifts in trade policy.

The American Farm Bureau Federation on Tuesday released a new economic report that paints a positive picture for their industries. 

The analysis concludes that the TPP agreement would boost the bottom line for the nation's farmers by $4.4 billion over levels expected if Congress fails to otherwise ratify the deal between the United States and 11 other nations.

Vilsack estimated that based on those figures the TPP would add 30,000 jobs in the agricultural sector.

“My view and our view in the administration is that we need to make sure that people understand and appreciate the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to American businesses, to American workers, to American farmers and producers," he said.