Trade Deal Announcement Highlights Tobacco Problem (Video) (Updated)

Hatch is expressing concerns about the TPP agreement. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:26 p.m. | Before free trade supporters get too exuberant about the outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, they might want to listen to the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  

Utah Republican Orrin G. Hatch told CQ Roll Call Monday he is “leaning against” supporting the deal, particularly over the exclusion of tobacco from certain protections.  

Foreign Relations Leaders Still Question Human Trafficking Report

Corker, left, and Cardin met Thursday with State Department officials and the full Foreign Relations Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The State Department still has some explaining to do after a closed briefing Thursday with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members over allegations that a report vital to several administration initiatives was watered down for political purposes.  

Committee members have cried politics since July when the annual Trafficking in Persons report was released. After Thursday's briefing, senators called for more transparency in the process that saw Malaysia and Cuba upgraded from the lowest ranking in terms of human-trafficking conditions. “My concerns were not alleviated in any way,” Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. “I don’t think there is anybody who was there that didn’t feel even more firmly that politics played a major role in determining some of the upgrades in the TIP report.”  

Could Tobacco Carveout Kill TPP?

Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., left, and Richard Burr, R-N.C., are among the senators who want to ensure protections for tobacco exports. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership's rocky road in Congress faces a fresh threat from tobacco-state senators.  

A brief trip down memory lane: Trade Promotion Authority passed with 62 votes in June, paving the way for a simple-majority threshold for the 12-nation trade deal.  

Foreign Relations Panel Blasts Human-Trafficking Report

Corker and Cardin prepare for a committee hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Testimony from a State Department official Thursday did little to dispel claims that an annual human-trafficking report was driven by politics.  

State Department Undersecretary Sarah Sewall defended the integrity of the report, which upgraded the status of Malaysia and Cuba, to three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by citing the report’s criteria, Secretary of State John Kerry's public comments, and her own assessment  but occasionally declined to comment on internal deliberations. The committee was unconvinced.  

Menendez, Rubio Critical of 'Political' Human Trafficking Report

Menendez and Rubio are critical of a new human trafficking report. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two senators say politics are at play in the State Department's announcement that the human trafficking situations in Malaysia and Cuba are improving.  

On Monday, the State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report , bumping both nations from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, allowing Malaysia to stay in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  

Elizabeth Warren: You Can't Trust Barack Obama's Promises

Warren dismissed "empty promises" made about trade agreements. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After President Barack Obama called out Elizabeth Warren for being a politician "like everybody else ," the Massachusetts senator is calling out the president, suggesting you can't trust his promises.  

Warren released a 15-page report Monday saying the United States had failed to enforce labor and environmental standards for two decades in previous trade agreements.  

Democrats Filibuster Obama's Fast-Track Trade Bill (Updated) (Video)

Wyden, left, earlier shepherded fast-track through committee, but balked at advancing it on the floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:49 p.m. | The Senate blocked President Barack Obama's top trade priority Tuesday, with the president's own party abandoning him en masse. Many Democrats insisted that several issues be bundled into the so-called fast-track trade authority bill, including a currency-related bill, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., balked, only agreeing to votes on amendments instead.