INSIDE US TRADE: [Fast Track] TPA Bill May Be Delayed As GOP Calls On Obama To Win House Dem Support

Posted: January 7, 2014

The expected introduction this week of a bill to renew fast-track negotiating authority for the president may be delayed as Republicans press for the White House to secure a House Democrat to co-sponsor the bill.

Congressional aides have said the bill was slated to be introduced tomorrow (Jan. 8) by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (D-MI). But staff for Finance Committee Democrats have not yet received a walkthrough of the bill that they are expecting before introduction, which informed sources say could indicate a delay.

A GOP aide laid the blame squarely on President Obama for any delay in introducing the bill. “If TPA introduction is in jeopardy, it is because not one person from the White House has stepped up to get any House Democrat support,” the aide said.

Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) is not supporting the fast-track bill, because his demands for a significant rewrite of the 2002 fast-track version failed to gain traction, as did his demand that a fast-track bill be part of a larger competitiveness package. Some private-sector and congressional sources have speculated that Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) may be a potential candidate for a Democratic cosponsor in the House.

But one private-sector source said that, at this point, neither Kind nor any other Ways and Means Democrat appeared likely to co-sponsor the bill. Doing so would be viewed as undercutting Levin and the House Democratic leadership, sources said.

Any delay in the bill’s introduction could also complicate what informed sources say is a quick timeframe that Baucus staff has laid out for Finance committee action on the bill. Sources said Baucus’ staff had set the goal of introducing the bill this week, holding a hearing on it next week, and having a markup during the last week of January.

Private-sector sources said this tight timeframe is driven at least in part in by a desire to achieve committee passage of the fast-track bill before Baucus leaves the Senate to become U.S. ambassador to China. President Obama formally sent Baucus’s nomination to the Senate today, after announcing his intent to nominate Baucus to the post last month.

But rushing the bill through the Finance Committee is likely to create further opposition from Democrats on the panel, some of whom already have objections to the bills’ substance, sources said.

At the same time, another source noted that getting fast track through Finance is likely to be a fight anyway due to objections from other Democrats, so speeding up the process may not change the calculus much for Baucus.