Welles Orr commented on the historical implications of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill as it relates to the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), scheduled for a vote during the upcoming election year. The TPA vote will at least give U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and his staff some semblance of a blueprint as they continue their outreach on Capitol Hill, Orr said. The administration's first task will be to make sure the 28 House Democrats who voted to pass TPA are still supportive of the administration's trade agenda, Orr said, as any defection from the Democratic caucus could have a ripple effect. "What the White House has to focus on is making sure they don't lose the 28 [Democratic] votes they have in the House at this point. You want to preserve the 'yea' votes and neutralize the fence-sitters and hopefully turn over a number of those fence-sitters to support," he said.
On the Republican side, Orr said President Obama and Froman will have to identify their strongest allies to act as whips once the vote draws closer. The likely candidates for these positions, both traditional free trade backers, have been less than glowing in their assessment of the TPP thus far. That can change as the administration massages the impact of the deal in meetings with members of Congress in the coming weeks, Orr said, adding that he expects those individuals to eventually support the deal in the end. Hillary Clinton has come out against the TPP legislation while on the campaign trail, though this opposition represents a shift for her as she previously spent time touting the deal when she served as U.S. Secretary of State. "If [Clinton] wins the election and she's the president-elect, depending on what she has said or not said about the agreement, she may give Democrats cover to peel away and not support the deal," Orr said.