Razor-edge vote to decide fate of Obama Pacific trade pact

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
House Trade Vote Is Too Close to Call

President Barack Obama's goal of strengthening U.S. economic ties with Asia will hang in the balance in Congress on Friday when divided lawmakers vote on legislation central to his hallmark Pacific Rim trade deal.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Obama's 12-nation pact, encompasses 40 percent of the global economy and is close to completion. It would be greatly advanced if Congress gives him "fast track" authority for it.

That question is expected to culminate in a very close vote in the House of Representatives, which has been wrestling with fast-track for weeks. The Senate has already backed it.

25 PHOTOS
Trade bill congress
See Gallery
Razor-edge vote to decide fate of Obama Pacific trade pact
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington toward the House Chamber, Friday, June 12, 2015. The House sidetracked a high-profile White House-backed trade bill, a humiliating defeat for President Barack Obama inflicted by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers from his own party. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama walks through a hallway after meeting with House Democrats at the US Capitol on June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. The House blocked a trade bill on June 12 which would have given Obama authority to pursue a sweeping free trade agenda. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Demonstrators protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement outside the Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important proceedural vote on the trade bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major Pacific trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Demonstrators protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement outside the Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important proceedural vote on the trade bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major Pacific trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Demonstrators protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement outside the Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important proceedural vote on the trade bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major Pacific trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Demonstrators protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement outside the Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important proceedural vote on the trade bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major Pacific trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md., arrives for a meeting with President Barack Obama and other House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. leave meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015. The president made an 11th-hour appeal to dubious Democrats on Friday in a tense run-up to a House showdown on legislation to strengthen his hand in global trade talks (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama walks in the Democratic dugout as he makes a visit to the Congressional baseball game at Nationals Park, on Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Washington (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In this photo taken June 9, 2015, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., answers questions during an interview with The Associated Press in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. First, give presidents the power to strike trade deals. Then overturn President Barack Obama’s health care law, overhaul the tax code and reform welfare. And someday? Figure out whether to run for president. Call it the New Ryan Plan, a map not just to big changes in the nation’s fiscal policy, but to Paul Ryan’s future. It points the ninth-term congressman and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee away from the presidential campaign trail and into the thicket of policy that he says will set the country on better financial footing. The path likely emerges at a familiar decision point _ whether to run for president _ somewhere down the road. Ryan, 45, says he might decide to take that step, someday. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 4, 2015. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. said Thursday that President Barack Obama can count on only a small number of Democrats to back his ambitious trade agenda, and Republicans must supply the rest. Boehner said Obama must procure more Democratic support, telling reporters he spoke with Obama on Wednesday, and "he's got some work to do, too." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi leaves after a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 4, 2015. Pelosi said that President Barack Obama can count on only a small number of Democrats to back his ambitious trade agenda, and Republicans must supply the rest. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said Obama must procure more Democratic support, telling reporters he spoke with Obama on Wednesday, and "he's got some work to do, too." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - In this May 5, 2015 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate leaders said Tuesday that Democrats have enough votes to block action on President Barack Obama's trade initiatives unless the parties can work out disagreements on how to package various bills. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a strong opponent of Obama’s trade agenda, said Democrats have more than enough votes to block action for now. McConnell agreed. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
UNITED STATES - MAY 12: Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., left, and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, arrive for a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center to express support for passage of the Trade Promotion Authority legislation, May 12, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Earnest discussed the much-anticipated Senate vote on trade, and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., leave the Senate Democrats' policy luncheon on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
In this May 8, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama speaks at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. A much-anticipated Senate vote on trade will pack some suspense Tuesday, but it won’t be the final word, no matter how it turns out. Supporters of President Barack Obama’s trade agenda need 60 votes in the 100-member Senate merely to start a full-blown debate on the legislation. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Earnest discussed the much-anticipated Senate vote on trade, and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
UNITED STATES - MAY 12: Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., right, and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, conduct a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center to express support for passage of the Trade Promotion Authority legislation, May 12, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on fast track authority. Major labor unions and business groups clashed Tuesday over President Barack Obama's bid for "fast track" authority to advance trade deals being negotiated with numerous nations. Trumka told the Senate Finance Committee that the fast track legislation would rob Congress of a meaningful role in shaping trade deals. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, right, talks with U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, prior to their testifying before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on fast track authority. Major labor unions and business groups clashed Tuesday over President Barack Obama's bid for "fast track" authority to advance trade deals being negotiated with numerous nations. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah gives an opening remark on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, before the committee's hearing on fast track authority. Major labor unions and business groups clashed Tuesday over President Barack Obama's bid for "fast track" authority to advance trade deals being negotiated with numerous nations. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, right, walks into a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, center, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue before the committee's hearing on fast track authority. Major labor unions and business groups clashed Tuesday over President Barack Obama's bid for "fast track" authority to advance trade deals being negotiated with numerous nations. Trumka told the committee that the fast track legislation would rob Congress of a meaningful role in shaping trade deals. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama, left, walks with Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., as he makes a visit to the Congressional baseball game at Nationals Park, on Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Washington (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Fast-track authority would let lawmakers set negotiating objectives for trade deals, such as the TPP, but restrict them to only a yes-or-no vote on the finished agreement.

With a legacy-defining achievement on the line for Obama, House approval of fast-track would boost his hopes for a swift completion of the TPP, which would harmonize trading standards and lower trade barriers among the signatory countries.

Rejection by the House of fast-track, or of a companion measure meant to aid workers hurt by trade, would be a massive blow to Obama. He has lobbied hard to win over skeptical Democrats and forged an unusual alliance with the Republicans who control Congress.

"We're expecting two close votes, probably two nailbiters," said Gabe Horwitz, economics director at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, who expects both measures to pass.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, declined to guarantee victory but said he had worked to address concerns raised by both sides.

"I'm encouraged. We've had good discussions this week on a bipartisan basis," he told reporters.

Although some Republicans are likely to oppose fast-track, the party has 246 House seats, meaning it could lose 28 votes and still cross the 218-vote threshold needed for passage.

A Democratic aide said 26 Democrats were ready to vote "yes," with another four leaning that way. Vote counters are betting that level of Democratic support will be enough to compensate for any weakness on the Republican side.

The trade debate has pitted business groups and iconic U.S. brands such as Nike Inc (NKE.N) against environmental and consumer groups and unions. In an unusual move and a sign of the severity of the opposition, the unions are also lobbying against the worker aid program, an issue dear to many Democrats.

Democrat Jan Schakowsky, who hails from Obama's hometown of Chicago and was an early supporter of his 2008 run for the White House, said some Democrats were willing to see the worker aid program die if it means stopping fast-track and the TPP.

"There are plenty of those who feel that's not such a bad price to pay for saving American jobs," said Schakowsky, a trade skeptic.

(Additional reporting by David Lawder and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaughand Richard Chang)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners