After five years of intense talks, the United States and 11 other countries have reached an agreement on the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Negotiators announced the agreement early Monday morning from a ministerial meeting in Atlanta.
TPP opponents are now insisting the deal faces serious peril in Congress, where it will come up for a vote in about four months. Political advocacy often requires creating a sense of optimism and momentum even when it’s not warranted, but in this case there is legitimate reason to believe the trade deal will ultimately be rejected by either the House or the Senate, or possibly both.
Several brewing political disturbances could form a perfect storm to defeat the TPP in early February. The most immediate danger is in the House, where fast-track trade promotion authority passed by very narrow margins during a drama that included one failed vote.
Now, restless hardline conservatives just pushed House Speaker John Boehner out of his job.
Several key leaders of this revolt are TPP opponents, and the fast-track vote actually played an underrated role in the coup. Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis voted against fast track and was subsequently kicked off the GOP whip team. Lummis joined the House Freedom Caucus, the loudest band of Boehner critics, and is its only woman.
There is an unlikely but possible scenario where hard-right conservatives get their chosen candidate, Representative Jason Chaffetz, elected House Speaker. Even if that fails, several key leadership posts could end up being held by far-right House members, including the majority leader position. And currently majority leader Kevin McCarthy hasn’t exactly been demonstrating any political acumen in the week since announcing he’s running for speaker.
In the end, it’s clear that hard-right conservatives, who largely oppose TPP, have received a boost at the expense of more moderate members who tend to support the corporate objectives of the trade deal.
The Freedom Caucus is relatively small in number, and many of them already voted against fast-track and were unable to stop it. But the dynamic has shifted: Aside from potentially gaining more leadership positions, their political victory has put more pressure on the 50 pro-trade Republicans who voted for fast-track, especially with an election year—and primaries—approaching.