Updated 3:17 p.m. | Senate leaders agreed to a deal to get President Barack Obama’s fast-track trade bill back on track Wednesday, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offering separate votes first on two bills demanded by Democrats.
That includes the key customs bill with currency enforcement provisions opposed by the White House, as well as a trade preference bill aimed at helping developing countries. Both will face a 60-vote threshold, with votes planned for Thursday.
Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is a “hell no” on fast track , nonetheless praised McConnell’s offer as “fair,” although he noted Democrats would still want to offer amendments on the underlying fast-track bill.
The deal also rescues President Barack Obama’s trade agenda, just one day after all but one member of his own party blocked debate on it.
Optimism for a revival of the bill had been increasing overnight , after Obama summoned 10 pro-trade Democrats to a meeting and Democrats made clear they would accept separate votes on the other bills instead of demanding all four bills in a single package. (McConnell had been offering up votes on amendments.)
The deal means opponents of the trade deals are likely headed for a big loss in the Senate. That includes many of the big unions that traditionally back Democrats.
The lobbying fight could now shift to the House, where the prospects remain cloudy. The hard-fought passage of the currency enforcement measure out of the Senate, meanwhile, doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere. It could end up as veto-bait or simply end up in the circular file of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.
Pro-trade Senate Democrats, however, will be able to tell their constituents that they voted for both tough new enforcement measures and the fast-track bill.
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