Congressional tax writers have struck a bipartisan, bicameral deal to allow so-called fast-track trade-promotion authority, advancing a White House priority and casting the measure as job-creating legislation.
The deal, backed by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, aims to make it easier for the administration to broker international trade agreements by preventing Congress from renegotiating them. It also establishes congressional trade objectives and obliges the White House to follow them, a key part of persuading lawmakers to back the legislation.
"This is our opportunity to tell the administration — and our trading partners — what Congress's negotiating priorities are," Baucus said in a statement.
The legislation, known as TPA-14, will make it possible to conclude dozens of trade negotiations, including 11 deals in the Asia-Pacific region and 28 in the European Union, according to a summary of the measure provided by committee staff. The measure also includes a provision aimed at directing trade partners not to manipulate exchange rates.
Importantly, from a congressional viewpoint, the measure directs the White House to pursue congressionally mandated priorities.
"This legislation will ensure that the administration is following the rules and negotiating objectives that Congress has set," Camp said in a statement.
The previous trade-promotion authority expired in 2007, but had been written in 2002. Tax writers had said the decade-long gap between legislation and the influx of newer members who were skeptical of TPA made it challenging to build support.
Indeed, House Democrats remain skeptical. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a former chairman of the Ways and Means committee and a current member, said late last year that Democrats were not being involved in talks over TPA. Notably, the name of the top Ways and Means Democrat, Sander Levin of Michigan, was absent from the news release announcing the deal.
"The effort by Senator Baucus, Representative Camp, and Senator Hatch has fallen far short of adequately replacing the failed 2002 TPA model," Levin said in a statement.
House Democrats assailed the legislation and argued that it would be bad for the U.S. economy, sending jobs overseas.
"Instead of pursuing the same failed trade policies, we should support American workers by making the necessary investments to compete in today's global economy," wrote Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and George Miller, D-Calif.
The White House supports the deal. Press secretary Jay Carney said the administration welcomes the legislation, according to a statement.
The legislation is expected to be introduced first in the House, according to aides. The deal was described as a "very, very high priority" for the chairmen and leadership, the aides said.