(Washington Examiner) – The House will vote Friday on legislation to give President Obama “fast track” authority to secure trade deals.
Republican leaders announced plans for the vote in a closed-door meeting with their rank and file, who are divided over whether to support the legislation.
The vote is likely to be close. With just two days until the vote, GOP leaders continue to negotiate with members to win their approval for the bill.
“Actually we are doing really well,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a chief negotiator, said as he emerged from the meeting. “I think we have addressed lots of concerns and I feel we really have an air-tight case to make. We’re in our closing arguments. We are comfortable. That’s why we are proceeding.”
Passage of the fast track bill, known formally as trade promotion authority or TPA, will depend mostly on Republicans, as fewer than 20 Democrats have said they will support the bill.
On the GOP side, some members such as Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Tom Massie, of Kentucky, are firmly against the legislation.
Many conservatives are wary of providing more authority to President Obama, who they feel has overstepped his powers in changing immigration policies and releasing prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
“I haven’t seen any indication that we can trust the president to keep Congress in the loop,” Gohmert said. “There have been plenty of times when he has refused to abide by the law.”
But other conservatives say they can support it.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he’s willing to vote for the bill because Republican leaders have promised to include language that would prohibit presidents from making any changes to immigration policies in any future trade agreements. King believes Republicans will be able to move the bill over the finish line Friday.
“My calculation is that it does pass,” King said.
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Aside from TPA, there will be three other votes on trade this week. One of those votes will be on Trade Adjustment Assistance, a provision that would direct aide to workers who lose their jobs as a result of new international trade agreements.
Democrats want TAA, but they oppose the way Republicans are paying for the program because it will extend spending cuts to Medicare.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are in the process of working out a new plan to pay for the $2.7 billion cost of TAA, but it’s not clear whether it will win over the approximately two dozen Democrats who will be needed to pass the legislation. The deal involves increasing fines for tax evaders.
“We worked to come up with an alternative, and we did,” Boehner said Wednesday.