The top Democrat in the U.S. House said she will back proposed legislation that would slow work on trade deals, raising a challenge to bipartisan bill to give the White House fast-track power over future agreements.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement that a measure to be unveiled Thursday by Representative Sander Levin of Michigan will give Democrats a “a path to yes” on trade legislation.
With Pelosi’s endorsement, the Levin version could siphon Democratic votes from a bill by Representative Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who heads Ways and Means Committee, and introduced in the Senate by Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and Ron Wyden of Oregon, the panel’s top Democrat.
The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill would let the president submit trade agreements for an expedited vote without amendments, a process President Barack Obama is seeking to wrap up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Levin’s bill would require Congress to grant fast-track powers on every future trade accord.
Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said Wednesday his count showed 180 to 200 Republicans ready to support the Ryan bill on trade promotion authority, with as many as 30 of 188 Democrats in support.
“That’s enough.” he said. “Not much to spare.”
Overall, with 432 current House members 217 yes votes are needed for passage if all members show up and cast votes.
The Levin bill, which will be introduced when the House Ways and Means Committee meets Thursday, would direct the president in his negotiations on specific outstanding areas of the Asia trade pact, which U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman hopes to complete this year.
It also allow an expedited, no-amendment considerations only if a bipartisan group of congressional trade advisers conclude that the president has followed congressional instructions.
For several months, Ryan negotiated a fast-track bill with Hatch and Wyden and they introduced that bill last week. Match’s Finance Committee is meeting Wednesday to consider changes to the bill, which is also known as trade promotion authority.
“The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA bill puts Congress in the back seat and greases the skids for an up-or-down vote after the fact,” Levin said in a statement.
The AFL-CIO labor federation, an ally of the Democratic party and opponent of free-trade accords, wrote to senators Wednesday urging opposition to the bipartisan measure.
“It will do little, if anything, to prevent repeating the mistakes of failed trade policies that have contributed to stagnating wages, increasing inequality, and the closure of more than 60,000 factories since 2000,” said William Samuel, the AFL-CIO director of government affairs.