A major trade deal could find itself the target of a hostile Congress and a Presidential election.

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

TPP Not a Done Deal

After six years of negotiation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that was announced Monday still has hurdles to clear. According to POLITICO, those hurdles include Congress and the 2016 Election.

President Barack Obama wants the 12-nation deal to cement his economic legacy. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders opposes it as a sellout of American workers. Hillary Clinton, who once pushed it as secretary of State, is now noncommittal. The Republican presidential field is all over the place: Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina are critics, while Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have spoken favorably of it.

Meanwhile, Speaker-in-waiting Kevin McCarthy will have to tame an unruly tea party caucus to push the agreement through the House. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a staunch supporter of free trade, is angry over a provision that would prevent tobacco companies from suing governments over anti-tobacco laws.

"It’s going to be a huge fight," said Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America, which led labor opposition to fast-track authority this spring.

So while the trade ministers of a dozen nations celebrate a historic breakthrough Monday after hundreds of hours spent hashing out detailed agreements on intellectual property rights, labor standards and Japanese rice, the dysfunction and unpredictable nature of the U.S. political system could still conceivably unravel the whole delicately negotiated pact. A vote is likely months away — perhaps even longer than that if Obama waits for the final details to be ironed out before he gives Congress the legally mandated 90-days notice that he intends to sign it.

And the political ride is only expected to get wilder. With populism animating the base of both parties, a trade pact is bound to be unpopular with many early primary voters who already feel disconnected from government, insecure about their jobs and distrustful of anything Washington does.

“Many Americans are suspicious of a deal hatched by big corporations with little or any public input,” said Robert Reich, former Labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. “And the bad jobs situation cause lots of people to worry about more outsourcing abroad.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who was prominent in the fight against the fast-track bill, said this deal will be “an equally hard sell — and you don’t have John Boehner there.”

To be sure, the betting money is on passage — albeit after long and loud debate. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said he would start briefing lawmakers as early as Monday afternoon and he was “confident that people will see this as a very strong deal, very much consistent with the directives of Congress with regard to trade promotion authority.”

A vote to give the president fast-track authority to conclude the agreement passed the House in June with the slimmest of margins — 218-210. But as many as half the Republicans who voted against it several months ago will probably vote for the pact, Cohen believes.

Dingell isn’t so sure, arguing some Republicans may be alienated by the provision barring Big Tobacco from seeking damages over anti-smoking laws, as well as by weaker-than-expected language on intellectual property protections and currency manipulation.

Once details begin coming out we will see how the candidates and those in Congress react. It will also be interesting to see how the candidates in District 19 here in West Texas react to the agreement.

GOP Leadership Race

According to POLITICO, the GOP leadership race is getting personal between Rep Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy is facing a new challenge from his former ally Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who is criticizing the majority leader in sharp terms. Chaffetz says McCarthy can't get the 218 votes on the floor needed to become speaker, while McCarthy allies privately bash the Utah Republican as woefully unprepared to lead the House Republican Conference.

At the same time, McCarthy is privately planning for a more inclusive leadership structure that incorporates more input from all groups within the conference, including the House Freedom Caucus.

But meanwhile, in a nod to the ongoing war for control of the House GOP, Speaker John Boehner is considering delaying the election for majority leader and whip, a blow to Reps. Steve Scalise (La.) and Tom Price (Ga.), but a boon to conservatives who are looking to run a candidate against the pair of Southerners. It would also aid members seeking to change the Republican Conference rules to force candidates to resign other leadership posts and chairmanships while they run for new posts. Those changes would be debated before the election.

For now, the closed, secret ballot Republican leadership elections are officially scheduled for Thursday. And the race for speaker and House majority leader are far from settled.

According to FOX News, the vote in the Speaker's race will be on October 29 with other leadership positions to be voted on later. The extra time could give McCarthy a chance to solidify votes.

I don't think the race for Speaker will get as ugly as the media hopes it will get. Chaffetz is an interesting candidate, but I don't see him as that much different than McCarthy.

Matt Mackowiak joined me Monday and predicted that McCarthy would become the next Speaker and at this point I agree with him.

These and many more topics coming up on today’s edition of The Chad Hasty Show. Tune in mornings 8:30-11am on News/Talk 790 KFYO, streaming online at kfyo.com, and now on your iPhone and Android device with the radioPup App. All guest interviews can be heard on our KFYO YouTube page after the show and online at kfyo.com.

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