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May 11, 2015

As Senate Begins TPA Debate, White House Increases Outreach To Democrats

Last week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his chamber will begin debate on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or “fast track” legislation, today. However, before that debate can commence, Majority Leader McConnell must come up with the 60 votes needed under Senate rules to proceed. At this writing, it is still unclear whether he has those votes, in part because Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is actively working to get the 41 votes needed to stop this bill from progressing. Sen. Reid told The Huffington Post last week he opposes moving TPA because he wants to work on two other pieces of legislation first. 

Sen. Reid also wants the TPA bill to move alongside other trade bills, including one reauthorizing Trade Adjustment Assistance and another that includes language requiring that the U.S. Commerce Department address currency manipulation. (See more on that amendment here.) Steel manufacturers also support this strategy, as do a handful of Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Last Friday, Sen. Feinstein said, “Whether or not Congress should grant the president fast-track trade authority is important, but I believe the debate shouldn't occur in isolation from these related issues.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is facing a potential primary challenge in his reelection fight due to his support of TPA, echoed Sen. Feinstein’s opinion

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), meanwhile, has said she supports TPA passage while Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Tom Udall (D-CO) and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) have said they will oppose it. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama met with a group of Senate Democrats last Wednesday in an attempt to get them to vote to proceed and to support passage of the bill. 

Additionally, since the U.S. House could also consider the TPA bill this month, Politico Pro (subscription required) says the White House is working to shore up support for the legislation on the other side of Capitol Hill too. Specifically, President Obama has targeted members of the Congressional Black Caucus and four Washington State Democrats, hoping to sway them to vote for Trade Promotion Authority. The Washington lawmakers are: Rep. Rick Larsen, Rep. Derek Kilmer, Rep. Suzan DelBene and Rep. Denny Heck. According to Politico Pro, the latter three are “novices on trade,” which means they especially could be open to adding currency provisions to the bill. As such, MSCI members in Washington State are encouraged to call these four members to ask them to support efforts to add strong, enforceable currency manipulation rules to the TPA bill. 

To learn more about why these members should support these rules, please read MSCI President and CEO Bob Weidner and Lapham-Hickey President and CEO Bill Hickey’s recent joint op-ed

MSCI also encourages its members to read a new report on this issue from the Manufacturers Alliance. Despite the fact that the International Monetary Fund last week declared the yuan fairly valued, the Manufacturers Alliance argues the rapid decline in U.S./China export competitiveness make it imperative that the U.S. “take a leadership role in addressing” currency manipulation.