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Senate Passes Trade Promotion Authority (Updated)

Rob Portman's currency amendment, which drew a veto threat, failed. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.
Rob Portman's currency amendment, which drew a veto threat, failed. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Updated 10:20 p.m. | The Senate passed President Barack Obama’s Trade Promotion Authority package Friday, sending the precursor to major trade deals with Asia and Europe to the House.  

The package survived a near-death experience Thursday, with the Senate voting narrowly to cut off a filibuster in an extended vote, and again Friday, when the Senate narrowly rejected a bipartisan currency enforcement amendment that had drawn a veto threat. Obama cheered the passage in a statement.  

The legislation “includes strong standards that will advance workers’ rights, protect the environment, promote a free and open Internet, and it supports new robust measures to address unfair currency practices,” Obama said.  

“I want to thank Senators of both parties for sticking up for American workers by supporting smart trade and strong enforcement, and I encourage the House of Representatives to follow suit by passing TPA and TAA as soon as possible.”  

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, called the bill a “no-brainer” and said he would try and pass it in the House.  

“The House will take up this measure, and Republicans will do our part, but ultimately success will require Democrats putting politics aside and doing what’s best for the country,” Boehner said. “Let’s seize this opportunity to open new doors for the things Americans make and the people who make them.”  

A deal to vote in June on extending the charter of the Export-Import Bank helped pave the way for passage of the measure, as well as a months-long, intensive effort by the president on what has been his top economic priority and one of the last big legacy items of his presidency and one that exposed a deep rift within his party.  

Final passage ultimately came with less drama on a 62-37 vote.  

In theory, the trade bill should have sailed through. Trade Promotion Authority, which allows presidents the ability to get up-or-down votes in Congress on trade deals without amendments, had the support of the Republican majority, the Democratic president of the United States and ultimately 14 pro-trade Democrats.  

An extension to a program called Trade Adjustment Assistance that provides income support and training to workers displaced by international trade was added to the trade package as a sweetener for Democrats, but that was not enough for most of them. Led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, among others, most Democrats argued the trade deals would hurt American workers.

“This agreement, like bad trade deals before it, would force American workers to compete with desperate workers around the world – including workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is 56-cents an hour,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who is running for president and had called out Hillary Rodham Clinton for keeping her distance from the issue.

The 14 Democrats who backed the president included Michael Bennet of Colorado, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Chris Coons of Delaware, Dianne Feinstein of California, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Cardin had voted to filibuster the package earlier after being upset he did not get his amendments but had been a supporter of the package in committee.

Five Republicans voted no: Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama.

One Republican senator did not vote: Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming.


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