Trade bill clears last major hurdle

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 23, 2015 - The trade promotion bill cleared its last major hurdle as the Senate agreed, 60-37, to advance the legislation to a final congressional vote.

In a key victory for President Obama, 13 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for cloture on the Trade Promotion Authority bill (HR 2146), which would ensure that trade agreements can get an up-or-down vote in Congress without risk of amendment.

Sixty votes were needed to advance the bill to a final vote on Wednesday that will require only a simple majority to send the measure to Obama for his signature.

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Democrats got assurances from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner that Congress would finish work on a series of other trade measures, including an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance programs, which will be wrapped together with a renewal of duty-free treatment, or “preferences,” for imports from poor nations in Africa and elsewhere (HR 1295).

McConnell and Boehner also committed to negotiating differences between the House and Senate on a Customs and enforcement bill (HR 644).

The TAA-preferences bill must be approved by the Senate this week and sent back to the House for final approval before it goes to the White House. 

Shortly before the Senate vote, Boehner released a statement saying that the House would take up the TAA bill before breaking for the July 4 recess. “And we are ready to go to conference on the customs bill,” he said. “Our goal is to get TPA and TAA to the president's desk this week and deliver this win for the American people."

There was enough uncertainty about Tuesday's outcome on TPA that McConnell asked the GOP senators who are campaigning to return for the cloture vote.

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The Senate's top Democrat on trade policy, Ron Wyden of Oregon, announced his support for the TPA bill on Monday.

“Let's pry open foreign markets and send more of our exports abroad,” Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said Tuesday. “Let's fight for the American brand and the Oregon brand against the trade cheats and the bad actors who are blocking our way.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., missed the vote or it would have 61 had supporters. Five Republicans voted against it, including two who have been campaigning for president, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.


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