Hatch: TPP deal can get done in lame-duck session

Hatch: TPP deal can get done in lame-duck session
© Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears MORE said Wednesday that Congress will pass a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade agreement before the end of the year.

The Utah Republican said he is working with the Obama administration to resolve several lingering issues that could ultimately pave the way for a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the lame-duck session after the November elections.  

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"I think we're going to get it done in lame-duck," Hatch told The Hill.

First though, the White House needs to calm his concerns over the truncated length of patent protections for high-tech medicines called biologics, Hatch said.

Hatch and other pro-trade Republicans want 12 years of data exclusivity, which is the U.S. standard, whereas the TPP provides up to eight years.

"There are ways of doing it, they'll just have to do it," Hatch said of the White House's efforts.

Hatch said he is getting assurances from the White House that a solution is in the works that will address the trade deal's problems.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin backs raising debt ceiling with reconciliation if GOP balks Biden needs to be both Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside Billionaire tax gains momentum MORE (R-Ky.) said recently he didn't expect to take a vote on the TPP this year, leaving it to the next administration to handle. 

President Obama is still urging Congress to pass the Pacific agreement before he leaves office even as his efforts face stiff headwinds from Democrats on Capitol Hill and the anti-trade rhetoric from both presidential candidates.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertRep. Kim Schrier defends Washington House seat from GOP challenger Washington Rep. Kim Schrier wins primary Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight MORE (R-Wash.) said progress was being made on the biologics front and a solution would help sell the TPP to wary GOP lawmakers. 

But Reichert, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, said that more Democratic votes are needed to ensure passage of the TPP amid any Republican defections, calling on the president to find more support. 

The House would need more than 40 Democrats to throw their support behind the trade deal to get to the 218 needed to ensure passage, he said.

Last year, 28 Democrats supported the president's efforts to win trade promotion authority, or fast track, which would move the TPP through Congress without amendment. 

Democratic Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindBillionaire tax gains momentum Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms Two senior House Democrats to retire MORE of Wisconsin, who voted for fast track and is supportive of the TPP, told The Hill that "it is certainly doable to be north of 28" but that there needs to be a landing zone on biologics and other issues.