See Davidson, p. 444 on trade promotion authority (TPA) and free trade agreements (FTAs).
Under TPA, reciprocal FTAs and multilateral trade agreements that go beyond tariff reductions are treated as congressional-executive agreements, which require the approval of both houses of Congress. Such approval expresses Congress’s consent to bind the United States to the commitments of the agreement under international law. This type of agreement is distinguished from both an executive agreement, requiring only presidential action, and a treaty, requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Because reciprocal trade agreements typically result in tariff rate (revenue) changes, the House of Representatives is necessarily involved. For a more detailed legal discussion, see CRS Report 97-896, WhyCertain Trade Agreements Are Approved as Congressional-Executive Agreements Rather Than Treaties, by Jane M.Smith, Daniel T. Shedd, and Brandon J. Murrill; and Hal S. Shapiro, Fast Track: A Legal, Historical, and Political Analysis (Ardsley: Transnational Publishers, 2006), p. 22
The most important trade bill in a decade has pitted Harry Reid against President Barack Obama. Liberal Democrat Rosa DeLauro against moderate Democrat Ron Kind. Labor unions against pro-business Democrats. And Elizabeth Warren against virtually everyone who supports a landmark piece of legislation that would allow the president to close what could be the biggest free-trade deal in history.
The open warring among Democrats over fast-track trade legislation, and the party’s broader existential crisis on free trade, grew more pronounced Thursday as senior lawmakers announced a breakthrough on the trade bill. Many Democrats still feel the burn, 20 years later, of lost manufacturing jobs from the North American Free Trade Agreement — pushed through by former President Bill Clinton — and they fear another Democratic president is on the verge of turning his back on working-class Americans by negotiating a trade deal that would send jobs overseas.
What’s at stake substantively is giving the president streamlined authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country free-trade deal that would dwarf NAFTA. But there’s also much more at stake politically for a Democratic Party whose progressive wing is enjoying an upswing thanks to the aggressive populism of Warren and liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are unabashedly anti-free trade deal. Obama wants to cement a legacy on global free trade, but his work negotiating with Republicans has created several factions within the Democratic Party.
In the House, Republicans want a vote before the current legislative session breaks for the Memorial Day recess, Rep. Pat Tiberi, an Ohio Republican, said Thursday. The tally is expected to be close.
As few as 10 House Democrats, primarily from the ranks of the business-friendly New Democrat Coalition, are firmly committed to supporting the legislation. The measure needs 218 votes to pass in the lower chamber, which means getting the yeas of anywhere from 10 to 50 Democrats, depending on how many of the 247 Republicans in the House vote against the trade bill. Estimates of Republican defections vary widely from two dozen to as many as 60.
What I can tell you, which is good news, is a lot of members are feeling the heat,” Sanders said Wednesday night to constituents belonging to the liberal group Democracy for America.
“Whether we can beat it in the Senate or not, I don’t know. I think we have a better shot frankly in the House where to the best of my knowledge the overwhelming majority of Democrats are against it,” the Vermont independent said.