USA Today: Congress will vote on Fast Track bill this Friday

Posted by Soledad Vega on Wed, 06/10/2015 - 13:43

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Article by Susan Davis for USA Today 

WASHINGTON — Seeing momentum for passage, House Republicans are aiming to move forward Friday with an anticipated close vote to renew trade promotion authority.

The "fast track" trade bill is a top priority for Republicans and President Obama, but overwhelming opposition from the majority of congressional Democrats has pro-trade lawmakers anticipating a tight vote.

"Trade votes are never an easy lift around here, but Republicans are continuing to work, and we're seeing some positive momentum in the right direction," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday.

The Senate has already approved the fast track bill, which creates an expedited process for the president to submit trade pacts to Congress that can only be approved or defeated, not amended.

Obama is seeking the authority — which every modern president has enjoyed — to finalize negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact with the United States and 11 Asia-Pacific nations.

The Senate approved the legislation last month on a 62-37 vote. If the House can approve mirror legislation, it will go directly to Obama for his signature.

"We're working with both sides to get this done, and as soon as we have the votes, we'll be moving forward," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Republicans are expected to make up the bulk of the support, but some number of House Democrats will be required to get a majority vote.

House Democratic leaders have not been whipping support for the bill, leaving that effort to Obama and senior administration officials.

The administration is up against opposition from labor unions and liberal activists groups. However, the president scored at least one public victory this week when Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., announced that she switched her vote and would support the bill.

"After more than five months of trade briefings, reviews of classified trade documents, and extensive conversations with those brokering a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership, my confidence has changed," she wrote this week in an op-ed in The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication.

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