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By Len Bracken and Jonathan Nicholson
June 9 — House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.)on June 9 said trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation (H.R. 1314) could come up for a House floor vote as early as June 12.
Assuming that a vote on a defense authorization measure is held June 11, Hoyer said, then TPA likely would be vying with an intelligence authorization bill for a June 12 vote, with one or the other being pushed over to the week of June 15.
“If we do trade on Friday, then intel will be next week,” Hoyer said in a briefing with reporters. “Apparently, the opposite is true, although I don't think definite.”
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he thinks House Republicans need to make a decision June 10 if they are going to bring TPA to a floor vote by the end of the current week.
Sessions told reporters after exiting the regular weekly meeting of House Republican leaders ahead of the week’s first set of floor votes that the Republican conference is going to have a chance to hear the morning of June 10 where the TPA stands.
“I think it’s got to be made tomorrow if we’re going to go this week. I don’t think we’re going to be here this weekend. My recommendation is that we don’t stay this weekend,” he added.
“I’d like to set a date and get it done,” he said. “Up to today, it’s been a process that has allowed itself to play out properly. We didn’t surprise anybody. People have studied it.”
When asked whether the Republicans have reached their goal of gathering commitments for 190 votes, Hoyer declined to speculate on whether there will there be enough Democrats to get to passage if the Republicans fall short.
“As I said, I haven’t been counting votes,” Hoyer said.
Pro-trade Democrats have told Bloomberg BNA that Republicans likely would lose as few as 40 votes and are seeking as many as 30 Democrats to vote for the bill, which would provide a comfortable margin for passage.
Nongovernmental activists who oppose TPA have told Bloomberg BNA that Republican supporters could lose 65 votes and Democrats gain at most 20, reaching only 202 “yes” votes, far short of the roughly 217 needed.
Hoyer said his concerns with the prospective Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are key factors in deciding how he will vote. He cited the inclusion of Vietnam, which he described as having a “managed economy,” among the 12 countries in the TPP. He also listed concerns with worker rights, U.S. employment, food safety and transparency as his “small list” of concerns with the trade negotiations.
TPA would provide for up-or-down congressional votes, without amendments, on trade agreements such as TPP. The Senate May 22 passed the bill.
“This is interesting because we’re talking about fast track at almost the same time as TPP is ready to be finished, which is a confusing part of this debate,” he said in a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill. “TPA is a process, TPP is substance.”
Hoyer said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are trying to find an alternative way to pay for trade adjustment assistance (TAA), which is Title II of the Senate-passed TPA bill but will likely be voted on separately so separate votes can be taken on TAA and TPA. The rule for floor debate on the bill would provide that the two titles could be brought back together after separate votes.
Hoyer said Boehner has indicated that any fix to the Senate TAA bill needs to be in a separate bill.
“If that's the case, then we need to figure out: Is it the Customs bill or is it some other bill or should we insist that it be in TAA? The Leader's working on that. I don't know the present state of play in the last 24 hours.”
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