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Senate Advances ‘Fast-Track’ Authority For Obama

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The Senate voted to advance one of President Obama’s priority issues Thursday, a measure to grant the president fast-track authority to negotiate international trade deals.

On a vote of 62-38 the cloture motion reached the 60 votes needed to end debate and move the Trade Promotion Authority fast-track bill forward.

The TPA would allow Obama and future presidents the ability to hash out trade deals that Congress cannot alter but merely vote up or down.

The TPA has in large part been tied to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal the U.S. is negotiating with 11 nations including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The trade push has made unusual bedfellows of Republicans and President Obama as well as provided some uncomfortable exchanges between Obama and the more progressive wing of his party, which opposes the trade effort.

Indeed nearly the entire Democratic caucus filibustered the bill early last week until some last minute deal-making got the legislation back on track.

According to reports, Obama has gotten personally involved, twisting the arms of some Democrats to get to yes.

“He’s been hands-on. Believe me, I’ve got scars,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Politico.

Another top critic of the fast-track effort has been one of the Senate’s more conservative voices, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who has argued granting such authority would amount to a rubber stamp to trade agreements that likely do not have the best interests of the American worker in mind.

Sessions voted against cloture Thursday, along with four other Republicans: Sen. Susan Collins (D-ME), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Twelve Democrats voted with the majority including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Wyden (D-WA).

After the motion passed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that there would still be an opportunity to add amendments to the final product.

“I am very happy the Senate has decided to take another step forward on this very important initiative, not only of the president but of the majority party as well and I think the folks on the other side who are also similarly inclined,” he said.


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