WASHINGTON – The No. 2 Republican in the U.S. Senate said on Tuesday that American trade officials hoped to present a Pacific trade deal to Congress for consideration within the next two months.
“On the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S. Trade Representative has been calling a number of us and saying that he thinks we are sort of on a two-month trajectory to getting something he’d like us to take up in Congress,” Sen. John Cornyn told reporters.
Cornyn said Congress would have to move “pretty quickly” on fast-track authority, which gives Congress only an up-or-down vote on free trade agreements in exchange for setting negotiating goals and laying out rules for consulting with lawmakers.
The head of the House of Representatives committee responsible for trade said fast track would help get a better deal from trading partners, and Congress should push ahead with it “first thing.”
Republican Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he planned to discuss the timeline for the legislation at a retreat for Republican lawmakers on Thursday and Friday.
“The first thing we have to do is pass Trade Promotion Authority,” Ryan told a committee hearing.
But he said later it was premature to talk about when the legislation could be introduced or whether it would differ from a bill introduced last year, which never reached a vote.
“We’re going to go through all these issues with our members to get consensus on our agenda and our timeline and we are going to consult with the Senate as well to get things to match up,” he told reporters.
Discussions are continuing with Senate trade leaders from both parties about possible changes to the 2014 blueprint.
The senior Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, Sander Levin, has said the focus should be on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which negotiators hope to wrap up this year, rather than the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority.