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SOTU and Trade: What to Listen for

January 20, 2015

There’s probably no better opportunity for bipartisan achievement this year than expanding export markets for American goods and services. This starts with passing Trade Promotion Authority—or “TPA.”

Last year, the President gave TPA only the most fleeting of mentions in his State of the Union address. And it took Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) fewer than 24 hours to put the kibosh on the idea.

So this year, the question is, what is the President going to do differently? The opposition to TPA in his party is vocal. Some House Democrats have pledged to “fight the administration tooth and nail on this.

At the same time, other Democrats have said this is a fight the President needs to have with his party. TPA is vital to getting the best trade deals for the American people, and Republicans are eager to work with the President to get this done. But no one except the President can rally his party around this crucial measure.

So tonight, we’ll be looking for the President to make a clear, unmistakable statement in support of TPA. We’ll also be looking for him to challenge members of his party to vote for it.

And after the speech, we’ll be looking for the President to deliver. If the President really wants TPA to pass, he’ll need to provide focused, sustained engagement. It’s exactly not his strong suit, but it’s essential to getting this done.

What the President does is even more important than what he says. But the most important thing he can do tonight is call for Congress to pass TPA. That’s what we’ll be listening for.