The Senate revived the key piece to President Obama’s trade agreement Tuesday, granting the president expanded powers to negotiate an ambitious Pacific trade deal.
The 60-37 procedural vote narrowly cleared the Senate, giving Trade Promotion Authority enough momentum to move toward a final vote in the House Wednesday in what is expected to be smooth passage. The House needs a simple majority to send TPA to the president’s desk by Friday.
Obama argued the bill is necessary to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a monumental 12-nation trade agreement that would link 40 percent of the global economy. The fast-track trade authority strips Congress out of the pact’s decision making process, allowing lawmakers an up-or-down vote without the ability to amend or filibuster the final deal.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has adamantly opposed Obama’s trade package, saying Tuesday the passage of fast-track will lose the trust of Americans.
“Washington broke arms and heads to get that 60th vote—not one to spare—to impose on the American people a plan which imperils their jobs, wages and control over their own affairs,” Sessions said in a statement.
“This is our chance to put in place higher standards in global trade on matters like labor rights and environmental protection, shine some real sunlight on trade agreements and ensure that our country writes the rules of the road,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a floor speech before the vote on his co-written trade bill.
House Democrats nearly killed the trade deal earlier this month after defying Obama’s last minute pleas to move the bill forward, claiming the Pacific trade agreement would accelerate job loss. Some House conservatives opposed the deal as well.
The original trade package included a measure providing aid and education to workers displaced by trade. Though House Democrats created the workers program in Trade Adjustment Assistance, they voted against it earlier this month to stall fast-track in an attempt to bring down the overall deal.
The White House worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner to separate the two measures to accelerate fast-track’s passage. The Senate will revote on the stand-alone aid bill Wednesday, applying pressure on House Democrats to switch their votes on TAA in order to salvage the program.
Regardless of TAA’s outcome, the fast-track agreement will still move to the White House for Obama’s signature later this week upon the House’s passage.
Both McConnell and Boehner have assured Democrats TAA will move to a vote Wednesday as part of a bipartisan deal to cinch influence in the Trans-Pacific negotiations.
“The House will consider TAA once it passes the Senate as part of a new trade preferences bill,” Boehner said in a statement. “Our goal is to get TPA and TAA to the president’s desk this week and deliver this win for the American people.”