President Barack Obama faces a gauntlet with little room for error as he tries to get Congress to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, dodging potshots from his would-be successors, parochial concerns from tobacco-state lawmakers and a shrinking window before he leaves office.
Josh Earnest was leery Monday of making any predictions about when the trade pact will come up for votes on Capitol Hill, although it won't be anytime soon. The most he would say about a timeline is there's "no reason" why Congress wouldn't be able to act in 2016.
And while Earnest touted the deal for cutting taxes on 18,000 export products and services — in some cases dramatically — while raising labor and environmental standards, most Democrats can be expected to oppose it, starting with presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont. With many labor unions lining up in opposition and threatening to defeat Democrats who vote "aye," the White House clearly could use all the help it can get — starting with Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been noncommittal so far.
WH: ‘No Reason’ Congress Can’t Pass Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2016
But the carve-out allowing countries to regulate tobacco will be trouble too, already costing the administration votes in the Senate from tobacco country.
"Signing a bad deal just so it could pass through Congress was never going to be part of our equation," Earnest said when pressed about opposition from tobacco state lawmakers.
Tobacco Fight Complicates TPP Passage
See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site.
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.