Democrats demand pledge on trade bills for fast-track support

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 11, 2015 - Senate Democrats whose votes are critical to passing a fast-track trade bill have been pressing for a last-minute commitment from Republicans to move a separate enforcement measure.

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The Senate GOP leadership scheduled a key cloture vote Tuesday afternoon to proceed on the legislation that would ensure that trade agreements can get an up-or-down vote without the risk of congressional amendments.

Republicans, who control 54 votes, will need some help from Democrats to get the 60 necessary to advance the legislation. The fast-track measure will be packaged with a a separate bill extending Trade Adjustment Assistance programs for workers, farmers and businesses harmed by imports.

Republican leaders have refused to fold in two additional bills, a Customs enforcement measure and a bill extending duty-free treatment for imports from developing countries.

“We've got to have a plan to get the four bills passed,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told reporters Monday evening. “I want to see what that plan is to get them passed.”:

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch indicated that Republicans were open to promising votes on all four bills but that packing them all together was a non-starter. Including the TAA extension already is a concession by Republicans, he noted.

Hatch expressed confidence that Republicans would be unified on the procedural vote.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Obama “has been trying to do his part' to convince reluctant Democrats to support the fast-track bill.

“He's made a very strong case about why he believes this is in the best interest of our economy both in the short term and over the long term,” Earnest said.

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