WASHINGTON, March 13, 2015 – Republicans and Democrats reached agreement to clear the way for likely Senate passage of legislation to fast-track new trade agreements.

One day after Democrats blocked debate on the bill, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid agreed to a GOP plan to allow a separate vote on a trade enforcement measure Thursday before moving onto the fast-track legislation.

The deal virtually ensures Senate passage of the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority legislation, setting up what is expected to be a pitched battle in the House. The TPA bill would guarantee an up-or-down vote on trade agreements without risk of congressional amendments. Obama administration officials say the bill's enactment is critical to wrapping up negotiations on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Reid, D-Nev., dropped a demand that Republicans wrap TPA and enforcement bills together along with two other measures extending Trade Adjustment Assistance programs and duty-free treatment for imports from sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries in other regions.

Republicans argued that a currency manipulation provision in the enforcement bill was a poison pill that would have imperiled the fast-track bill.

Under the deal, the Senate is scheduled to have separate, final votes at noon Thursday on the enforcement and African trade bills before voting on whether to begin debating amendments to the combined TPA and TAA measure (HR 1314).

Democrats said Tuesday that they feared the enforcement bill would be left behind if Republicans didn’t guarantee its passage or include it with the fast-track measure. Republicans said their plan all along was to allow a separate vote on the measure.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said that the agreement validated the concerns of pro-trade Democrats that “robust enforcement of our trade law was a prerequisite to a modern trade policy.”

Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called the agreement “the best of all possible outcomes.”

Meanwhile, a pro-trade House Democrat, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, said momentum was starting to build in that chamber in support of TPA. He said more than 30 House Democrats could ultimately support the legislation.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape over here,” Schrader said. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to pass with overwhelming support, but the buzz is good.”

He was among a dozen “blue dog” Democrats who discussed the issue and the TPP negotiations Wednesday with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

With the Africa trade bill set for Senate passage Thursday, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., announced that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman had agreed to review South Africa’s response to the administration’s pressure to end duties on U.S. chicken imports.

Isakson sponsored an amendment to the bill, which would extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act and Generalized System of Preferences, requiring the administration to review the South African issue within 30 days of the measure's enactment. The bill also would authorize the administration to selectively review whether a country is making progress in meeting eligibility criteria and strip the duty-free status.

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