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House Majority Leader Urges Congress to Pass Trade Bill

FILE - In this March 24, 2015 file photo, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California talks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington

U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the House needs to pass legislation giving President Barack Obama "fast-track" authority to negotiate foreign trade deals, but acknowledged it will be difficult to do.

McCarthy, a Republican, said Monday that House leaders are considering their options after both Democrats and Republicans defeated a key piece of the trade package last week.

He said no decisions have been made about how to proceed, but that the bill must pass by the end of the summer for it to have a chance to go forward. He said each week that passes without the bill being approved makes it a little more difficult.

Obama is seeking authority to "fast-track" trade deals, including an ambitious Asia-Pacific free trade agreement. The fast-track authority would prevent Congress from making any changes to the administration's deals when they come up for approval or rejection.

Past presidents have had this ability and Republicans generally support it. However, labor unions and many liberal Democrats oppose free-trade deals, saying they send more American jobs overseas and hurt the environment.

On Friday, Obama's fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans, voted against a part of the trade package that would have given aid to workers who lost their jobs as a result of U.S. trade deals. The workers' aid piece was initially included to appease Democrats to vote for the fast-track trade deal.

Even though lawmakers went on to narrowly approve fast-track authority for Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, the overall vote is far from a victory for the president. Both pieces of the legislation must be approved before the president can sign them.

Obama said Saturday that the failure of the House of Representatives to pass a measure to help American workers affected by global trade pacts will “directly hurt about 100,000 workers and their communities.”

Refusal to grant the president negotiating authority for the TPP would make it much more difficult for the administration to secure the deal, which is already years behind schedule.

The countries negotiating the TPP are the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, Peru, New Zealand, Mexico, Malaysia, Japan, Chile, Canada, Brunei, and Australia. The U.S.-led pact aims to cover nearly 40 percent of global economic output when completed.

The White House has said the TPP would help further break down global trade barriers, open untapped markets, and grow the economy, while providing an important counterbalance to the growing economic strength of China.

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