Trade Issues Remain Low-Profile in Congress

UNITED STATES - APRIL 12: Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaks at a 'Countdown to Tax Day' news conference in the Capitol to address the tax in increases in President Obama's FY 2014 budget. 
National Journal
Michael Catalini and Elahe Izadi
See more stories about...
Michael Catalini Elahe Izadi
Oct. 23, 2013, 2 p.m.

To hear law­makers tell it, ef­forts to move trade le­gis­la­tion through the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee, while earn­est and on­go­ing, have hit snags in the 113th Con­gress.

Sev­er­al big pieces of le­gis­la­tion are slowly wind­ing their way through the com­mit­tee, in­clud­ing bills deal­ing with trade-pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity and the pro­posed Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

Ways and Means Trade Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Dev­in Nunes, R-Cal­if., has not ruled out hold­ing hear­ings on TPA, which in­cludes a “fast-track” pro­vi­sion al­low­ing the pres­id­ent to sub­mit trade bills to Con­gress for straight up-or-down votes. But he has not sched­uled any hear­ings ded­ic­ated to the is­sue through the end of the year. Con­gress last passed TPA in 2002, and that law ex­pired in 2007. The meas­ure also sets up a frame­work for ne­go­ti­at­ing trade agree­ments.

While both Nunes and sub­com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Charles Ran­gel, D-N.Y., avoid polit­ic­al snip­ing, fric­tion is there non­ethe­less.

“All I can tell you is what I know is that the pres­id­ent in his pub­lic state­ments has in­dic­ated an in­terest in the fast-track and the TPA,” Ran­gel said. “Whatever is go­ing on, Demo­crats are not in­volved.”

Nunes said the House has a chance to lead on trade-pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity be­cause, as he put it, House and Sen­ate Demo­crats have reached a stale­mate.

“That’s why I’m try­ing to take the tem­per­at­ure on TPA,” Nunes said. “I’d like to see if we can get that through. If the Demo­crats don’t want to play ball, then I think we should try to do move that on our own.”

Part of the reas­on Nunes hasn’t set up more pub­lic hear­ings on trade is­sues is that they tip off po­ten­tial trad­ing part­ners to U.S. ne­go­ti­at­ing po­s­i­tions. Such talks are best held be­hind closed doors, the think­ing goes.

“Any time you get the cam­er­as in front of con­gress­men, it can be fun,” Nunes said.

Many mem­bers also were not in Con­gress in 2002, and so Nunes faces an edu­ca­tion­al hurdle as he ex­plains TPA’s im­port­ance — and this trade au­thor­ity both­ers some mem­bers be­cause out­wardly it ap­pears to give de­fer­ence to the White House. Re­pub­lic­ans, though, point out that Con­gress is heav­ily in­volved at the out­set, au­thor­ing ne­go­ti­at­ing ob­ject­ives, for ex­ample.

“Mem­bers are com­ing up to speed, but it just takes time,” Nunes said.

An­oth­er key to mov­ing TPA, say Re­pub­lic­ans, is in­creased in­volve­ment from the White House. If Pres­id­ent Obama en­gaged more on the is­sue, that would help speed things along, they ar­gue.

But some off Cap­it­ol Hill point to the fact that Obama has been push­ing harder on trade is­sues than dur­ing his first term. In a Septem­ber speech to the Ex­port Coun­cil, Obama spe­cific­ally said trade-pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity was needed.

“It’s ob­vi­ously help­ful when you have an ad­min­is­tra­tion and pres­id­ent who are talk­ing more about how this is more im­port­ant,” said Chris­toph­er Wenk, seni­or dir­ect­or of in­ter­na­tion­al policy at the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce. “There’s a steady drum­beat on how im­port­ant it is.”

Stacy Kaper contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×