(Recasts with comments from Ryan, details)
WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress is “within striking distance” of collecting enough votes to pass legislation critical to a major Asian trade pact, House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on Thursday.
But more support for the Trade Promotion Authority bill is still needed, and senior Republicans and Democrats accused each other of not doing enough to round up votes in their respective parties.
The legislation would give the Obama administration so-called fast-track authority to negotiate a sweeping free-trade pact with 11 Pacific-rim nations. The legislation would set negotiating objectives but allow Congress only a yes-or-no vote on the final deal.
Ryan, speaking to reporters in a news briefing, predicted that the trade negotiating bill would ultimately pass and said that after several House members pledged support this week, his confidence in this result had increased. The legislation needs to be passed in June to clear a path for the trade deal to be considered later this year, he said.
“The undecideds are falling the right way, so we are within striking distance,” Ryan said.
Both Ryan and Republican House Speaker John Boehner said more votes from House Democrats were needed to ensure passage, and called on President Barack Obama to do more to secure votes from his fellow Democrats in the House, most of whom have been reluctant to support the trade measure over fears of job losses.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday put the onus on Boehner to deliver more Republican votes, saying at least 200 of the 218 votes needed for House passage should be Republicans.
Speaking to reporters about the lack of support for the trade bill among Democrats, Pelosi said of Boehner: “200 is what he should come up with.”
Republicans control 245 seats in the House, their largest majority since 1947, while Democrats control 188 seats. Two seats are vacant.
The trade bill has already passed in the Senate. (Reporting by David Lawder and Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mohammad Zargham)