Sen. Orrin Hatch was one of Congress’ strongest boosters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but now he’s well-positioned to delay or even kill it if he decides to do so.
No one fought harder to give President Barack Obama trade promotion authority to complete a landmark 12-nation deal than Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch. Now, no lawmaker may be more disappointed with the result — or better positioned to torpedo the deal if he chooses to oppose it.
Days after the Obama administration announced a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement after nearly six years of negotiations, Hatch offered a stinging review and warned that the administration may have ignored congressional marching orders in a number of areas, including securing strong intellectual property protections for a new, cutting-edge class of drugs called biologics.
“The negotiating objectives we included in our TPA law aren’t just pro forma,” Hatch said on the Senate floor. “They aren’t suggestions or mere statements of members’ preferences. They represent the view of the bipartisan majority in Congress.”
Just how far Hatch might go to register his disapproval is unclear. The Utah lawmaker said he’s still waiting to read the full text of the agreement before he decides how to proceed. But his harsh early remarks, coming from one of Congress’ strongest trade advocates, raises a red flag for the trade deal that represents a top priority for the Obama administration. Hatch was a driving force behind trade promotion authority to streamline congressional approval of the deal — it requires only a straight up or down vote with no amendments or filibusters to pass. In fact, Hatch fought to make it more difficult to unwind that process.