- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2015

The White House urged Congress Friday not to delay action on a massive free-trade deal with Pacific rim nations, a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said lawmakers likely won’t consider it until after the presidential election in 2016.

“There’s no reason that we need to wait that long,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “We’re going to urge Congress to get started on the process of getting this passed and approved.”

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said in an interview Thursday that the Senate probably won’t take action on the Trans-Pacific Partnership until after next year’s election or possibly after Mr. Obama leaves office in January 2017. The TPP is the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s second-term economic agenda, and he views it as the key to his foreign-policy “pivot” towards the Asia-Pacific region.

Negotiators for the U.S. and 11 other countries, including Japan, Mexico, Vietnam and Malaysia, reached agreement in November on the pact that would lower or eliminate tariffs for thousands of products and services and set new environmental and labor standards for the participating countries.

Mr. Obama can sign the agreement as early as Feb. 4 and send it to Congress for action, and Mr. Earnest said Friday that Mr. McConnell’s comments won’t affect the White House’s timetable.

“We want Congress to take a look at this closely,” he said. “The president will sign it once he’s ready.”

He also said business leaders want Congress to approve the pact swiftly. Democrats and their labor allies oppose the agreement, saying it will lead to more losses of union jobs in the U.S.

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