WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid wants to delay legislation granting President Barack Obama “fast-track” trade negotiating authority needed to complete a Pacific Rim deal until bills to authorize highway funding and renew a domestic surveillance program are debated.
An aide to Reid said on Monday he would try to delay the “Trade Promotion Authority” bill until the other two measures are handled by the Senate, which could put off the trade measure until at least June.
Many Democrats in Congress are lining up against the trade bill, but it might have enough support to eventually pass the Senate.
While Reid, as Democratic leader, does not set the schedule in the Senate, he could erect procedural roadblocks that would make it difficult for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to move the trade bill promptly through the chamber.
Congress faces a May 31 deadline for renewing funds for repairing and building new roads, bridges and mass transit systems.
On June 1, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act expires. Congress must decide whether to change or renew provisions dealing with the National Security agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records.
Obama is trying to wrap up negotiations with 11 other countries on a Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal aimed at spurring trade among the Pacific Rim countries.
Fast-track authority would allow Obama to reach the deal knowing that Congress could give only an up-or-down vote and not amend it.
Reid has expressed deep concerns with such a deal, as have U.S. labor unions, which say it would jeopardize U.S. jobs in order to help large corporations.
While there could be enough support among Senate Republicans, plus some Democrats, to pass the fast-track bill, its future is more in doubt in the House of Representatives.
Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney