Starting the Clock on TPP

So the White House has indicated that the President will today release the text (at least to Congress) of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership for a 90-day review process created under the Trade Promotion Authority legislation that was narrowly approved by Congress earlier this year. Then begins another 90-day period (though it can be extended) during which Congress will either approve or disapprove the agreement.

According to my calendar, this first 90-day “window” will close on February 3, right between the February 1 Iowa Caucuses and the February 9 New Hampshire primary. Think TPP might come up then?

In theory it shouldn’t be an issue in the Democratic nominating process since all three candidates presently oppose approval of the agreement. But it will almost certainly continue to be a significant part of the media criticism of HRC as an alleged “flip-flopper.”

It’s the possible role of TPP in the Republican contest that’s most interesting. It could supplement immigration policy and Social Security/Medicare as an issue Donald Trump uses to excoriate the economic policies (and allegiances) of other candidates. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal all opposed TPA on grounds that they did not trust Obama to negotiate a good agreement, but it’s less clear they will oppose the underlying agreement against pressure from the business community. If he’s still around after Iowa, Mike Huckabee is positioned much like Trump on economic initiatives like trade agreements said to benefit GOP elites against the interests of regular old rank-and-file Republicans. As usual, Ben Carson is hard to pin down on this issue, though he’s complained about Obama’s handling of the negotiations.

So circle February 3 on your calendars, and we’ll see if this issue bursts onto the scene in the presidential campaign or instead simmers on a back burner until we have our two nominees.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.