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Republicans up pressure for fast-track trade authority

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some Republican lawmakers on Thursday threatened to withhold support for a Pacific trade pact unless Congress first passes legislation to ensure any deal will go to Congress for an up or down vote, without amendments.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the 23 Republican members of the House panel with jurisdiction over trade said Congress would not approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries if it did not meet lawmakers' goals.

So-called trade promotion authority (TPA) allows lawmakers to set priorities for trade deals and means Congress in return votes yes or no on agreements.

A bipartisan bill was introduced to Congress in January, but has since stalled given a lack of enthusiasm among House Democrats in the lead-up to Congressional elections in November.

"Because of the critical importance of TPA in ensuring a successful outcome in the TPP negotiations, we will not support TPP if the agreement, even an agreement in principle, is completed before TPA is enacted," the lawmakers, all members of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in the letter. 

Republicans are generally seen as more supportive of trade than Democrats, given concerns from some in the party's union support base about the impact of trade deals on jobs.

U.S. trade officials have repeatedly said they are ready to work with Congress to pass TPA. But some Republicans have called for President Barack Obama to do more to push the need for fast-track authority to increase support among Democrats.

Obama has said he hopes to have an agreement on TPP ready by the time of an Asia-Pacific leaders' meeting in November, just after the U.S. mid-term elections.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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