Ryan said, “We had a very good week. We’re not quite there yet but we are picking up votes every day,” adding he had won over a few more supporters on the House floor during the round of votes Thursday.
He said, “The undecideds are falling the right way, so we are getting within striking distance.”
For Ryan, who authored the House trade legislation, his remarks Thursday were perhaps his boldest yet that legislation granting President Obama so-called “fast-track” trade authority can clear the lower chamber.
He said, “Candidly, I have never been as confident as I am right now about the bill’s success.”
Ryan said, he wouldn’t speculate on current whip counts, he said strong GOP support for trade promotion authority or TPA means Republicans won’t need as much Democratic votes as they previously thought.
Ryan said, “Two years ago, we said we were gonna need 50 Democrats to get this done. We won’t need that many, but we’re still going to need the president to deliver votes and more than they have right now.
“So we’re not quite yet there and getting there is going to require some progress on their side of the aisle.”
Both Ryan and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke by phone with Obama this week about TPA, and Ryan said that he is been in frequent contact with White House Officials. The President, Ryan said, is working the phones pretty hard trying to round up Democratic votes.
Obama has said fast-track authority is critical to a major trade deal the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
In addition to his outreach to Obama, Ryan has also been huddling with small group of fellow House Republicans, including some Tea Party critics who don’t trust Obama. His pitch: free trade is fundamental to the conservative platform.
Ryan said, “This is about a stronger economy and a stronger national security. The world is watching, that is very clear. They want to know if America can still lead or if we are really in retreat or decline. … My argument is, if you’re standing still on trade, then we are losing as a country.”
Last month, TPA was able to move forward in the senate only after Majority Leader Mitch MCConnell cut a deal with Washington Democratics Sens. Maria Cantwell and Party Murray, pledging that he’d hold a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank — an 80-year-old institution that conservatives are hoping to kill this month.
Ryan has repeatedly vowed Thursday that the two issues would not be linked in the House legislation.
He said, “Ex-Im has nothing to do with TPA. If we need Ex-Im in order to have a successful export strategy for America, heaven help us.”