Heading into the Memorial Day recess, senators supporting Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) hope to bring the controversial measure to a floor vote before the unofficial beginning of the summer kicks off.
On May 19, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky made a motion to end debate on TPA in a bid to see if the congressional members could come to an accord on whether President Barack Obama should be given the authority to negotiate trade agreements with foreign countries. With TPA in place, Congress still has to be consulted, but the measure allows the commander-in-chief to discuss terms on the country's behalf, with the legislature giving an up-or-down vote thereafter. TPA prevents lawmakers from attaching amendments to a deal's framework.
Cloture, the legislative term for ending debate, is what is necessary for a formal vote to be had before a bill is passed. According to Roll Call, by invoking it, this suggests that a vote on TPA may come as soon as May 21.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is expected to run for president in 2016, is a fervent supporter of TPA and is frustrated that the bill hasn't been passed yet.
"I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and watch jobs in my state be lost because of some ideological crusade, the biggest beneficiary of which, in my view, would be China and our European competitors," said Graham, Roll Call reported. South Carolina's senior senator was referring to the belief that with or without the U.S.' involvement in trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), other nations will move forward.
Will TPA be passed before Memorial Day?
While TPA supporters, most of whom are Republicans, are hopeful to get TPA to Obama's desk for his signature before May 22 when the Congress goes on its annual week long recess, some believe that the chances of this are slim. Should it garner the requisite number of votes, it still has to be approved by the House of Representatives, where some believe it faces an uphill climb.
TPA detractors have largely been among a contingent of Democrats, led by Massachusetts Sen. Liz Warren. The Bay State's senior senator contends that trade deals such as these don't do anything to benefit small business owners and resulting in more American jobs being sent overseas. She also contends that it gives the executive too much power. Supporters say otherwise.
"TPA simply ensures that a proposed trade accord gets a vote rather than die a death by a thousand cuts or suffocation," said the editorial board of National Review, a conservative-leaning political news magazine.
Editors for National Review added that TPA "does not bind Congress to the president's proposal – it only ensures that they are obliged to vote on it. In other words, if legislators believe that a deal is a bad one, they have the ability to strike it down if they so choose.
TPP deal may be reached in June
Though TPA's reality is still up in the air, if it does pass Congress, it could be another two weeks before the Trans-Pacific Partnership is implemented, the deal that involves 11 other countries that would further free trade relationships.
Andrew Robb, Australia's trade minister, told ABC Radio that he sees a TPP accord coming in June.
"I think there'd be one window in June [to pass the legislation] from what I understand," said Robb, according to The Guardian. "But every month that goes by, the more the chance is of this issue becoming even more politicized in the United States as they head towards the next presidential election."
Australia is among the member nations of TPP.