The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal among 12 Pacific nations/powers, including the good ol' U.S. of A, is a high priority for Obama, and not so much for labor and environmental interests in his party. He wants Congress to give him "fast track" authority over passage of the pact in the U.S., which means the legislature can merely vote yes or no and not amend it with tons of special interest political manuevering—said backdoor political maneuvering having already occured as the deal was hashed together, merely in a place where elected representatives have nothing to do with it.
That plan is in trouble, Politico reports. They say that "The House is currently dozens of votes short of being able to pass" such fast-track authority, with "upward of 75 House Republicans" likely to vote against it if it came up soon, and "House Democrats, meanwhile, say just 12 to 20 of their lawmakers support Obama's request."
Reasons for opposition? "Some of the lawmakers fear job losses in their districts from free trade; others distrust Obama and oppose giving him more power. The Obama administration is said by Politico to be trying a serious crunch job on lobbying more support from Democrats in particular. Though:
Democrats who support TPA recognize the weak numbers and say administration officials are doing a lousy job wrangling support. They're spending too much time on policy and no time on politics and casting too wide a net in search of elusive support.
There isn't much wiggle room. If Republicans can garner 200 votes — which many believe to be their ceiling for support — 17 Democrats would need to vote with Obama to pass the bill. Many Democrats think that might be tough. If the Democratic count gets too low, the president's party will find it easier to oppose him than back him. Dwindling GOP support could also imperil the bill.
And Politico on the House Freedom Caucus' current take:
it's an open question where the House Freedom Caucus — which is gaining power as a conservative bloc — will end up. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a member, said there are "widespread concerns" among conservatives, even those who have supported free trade in the past.
"I think there are concerns about the process," said Amash, who added he is not finished reviewing the bill. "What kind of review rank-and-file members of Congress will have on trade deals and who gets to assert that the president is not complying with the objectives."
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), also a Freedom Caucus member, said he's leaning no.
"I want a big debate in the conference as a whole," Brat said. "All that stuff has been nontransparent — putting the bill together."
But Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, said he doesn't understand the fuss about ensuring that Obama's trade deals receive an up-or-down vote.
"I don't see what's unique about that — 95 percent of the stuff we vote on is a closed rule, up or down, no amendments," Massie said in a brief interview. "I don't know why he would need TPA to accomplish that. The speaker does that every week."
I wrote last week on the various infuriating balancing considerations free traders have to make when it comes to the powers-that-be refusal to ever do the real right thing, unilateral dismantlement of our own tariffs and trade barriers.
Other bits of interesting TPP news and analysis for you free trade maniacs out there:
• Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants Obama to lean on Japan to enthusiastically embrace TPP.
• Obama himself gripes to the Wall St. Journal about anti-globalization thought and raises fears of letting China control Asian trade.
• The AFL-CIO threatens any Democrat who supports the TPP with a withdrawal of his union's support for their candidacy.
• The sticking point of our desire to sell the Japanese more rice, and their desire to sell Americans more cars and car parts.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.