Even if a Deal Is Announced Imminently, Under Fast Track Rules a U.S. Congressional Vote Can Only Be Held Next Year When TPP Approval Would be Imperiled by 2016 Election Politics
TPP proponents were eager for Congress to vote on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal in late 2015. But to do so while following past practice for Fast-Tracked trade pacts, given Fast Track’s statutorily-required timeframe of notice periods and pre-vote reports, TPP negotiations and the TPP text itself had to have been completed at the end of Maui ministerial in late July 2015.
Moreover, if the Obama administration does not provide Congress notice of intent to sign the TPP by September 24, a congressional vote in 2015 is not possible under Fast Track even if the Obama administration exploits every ambiguity in the Fast Track statute. That is the case because even if congressional leaders were inclined to allow the Obama administration to manipulate every flexibility in the Fast Track statute, it requires minimally 91 days from the time Congress is give notice of a final deal until a congressional vote may be held. There is some speculation that the administration would attempt to compress the timeline set out in the Fast Track legislation and seek Republican congressional leaders’ approval to abandon past practice, given the increased political peril of a TPP vote at any point in the 2016 Presidential election year. But given the next TPP ministerial was announced for September 30-October 2, even if a deal were announced there it could not obtain a U.S. congressional vote in 2015 and any deal struck would thus become embroiled in the 2016 U.S. elections in which a new president, the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate must be chosen.