Moving forward on trade deal, House passes standalone ‘fast track’ bill

The House of Representatives voted 218 to 208 to advance Trade Promotion Authority — commonly known as “fast-track” — as a standalone bill.

WASHINGTON — Last week, when their major trade bill was dramatically defeated, President Obama and GOP congressional leadership went back to the drawing board to find a way forward.

On Thursday, that way forward became clear: the House of Representatives voted 218 to 208 to advance Trade Promotion Authority — commonly known as “fast-track” — as a standalone bill. TPA would clear the way for President Obama to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade agreement.

Previously, GOP leadership advanced this “fast-track” authority together with Trade Adjustment Assistance, a worker aid program, in a single package, hoping the worker assistance provisions would draw some Democratic votes. But that effort failed last week when Democrats largely voted against the worker assistance program in an effort to scuttle the entire trade deal.

On Thursday’s standalone “fast-track” vote, all of Minnesota’s Democrats voted “no,” while its Republicans voted in favor.

TPA now heads to the Senate, where a roughly a dozen Democratic votes will be needed to pass it. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar have signaled their opposition to TPA in the past, though Klobuchar has not come out wholesale against the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Senators of both parties have said they will have a hard time sending TPA to Obama’s desk unless there are assurances a renewal of the TAA worker assistance program will soon follow. Senate leaders have said that TAA will be attached to a trade preferences bill focusing on African countries, which has Democratic support.

In the days since Friday’s vote, the White House and GOP leadership — forming a rare alliance — undertook a serious offensive and did some parliamentary wrangling to get TPA back to the House floor. At first, there was doubt they would be able to get Democrats to vote for TPA if it were separated from TAA. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, have virtually guaranteed that TAA will follow TPA. The White House has said “the only legislative strategy the president will support is a strategy that results in both TPA and TAA coming to his desk.” 

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/18/2015 - 06:32 pm.

    Correction

    “TPA would clear the way for President Obama to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade agreement” should read “a 12-nation agreement being promoted as a free trade agreement.”

    What evidence do we have that the TPP does anything about “free trade” other than self-serving propaganda from the lobbyists of the multinational corporations who are promoting this thing? How can anyone claim what an agreement or piece of legislation is unless they have read it and understood its terms? This idea of having industry drafted legislation rubber stamped by the nation’s elected representatives without them even having to read it has gone too far.

  2. Submitted by Keith Kuckler on 06/18/2015 - 06:45 pm.

    I am almost 66 years old, a former farmer, union member, and, life long member of the DFL. I marched against the war in Vietnam, and was a draft resister. I consider myself a progressive blue collar Minnesotan. If my party allows this phony trade deal to pass, I will never vote Democratic again. I will vote for Sanders, because, I do not trust Hillary as far as I could throw her. If my two Democratic senators vote for this, and, do not do what they can to stop it, they will never get my vote again. Klobuchar and Franken could use the power of senate privilege to help stop this bill. I am sick and tired of Obama, who I voted for twice, and, contributed to, not standing up for the American working class. We all had to accept his giving up on universal health care, before he even started, I will not accept a trade deal that will drive the last nail in the coffin of working americans and the unions that protect their rights.

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