WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – Senate Republican leaders have been working to get the fast-track trade bill to the finish line this week, ahead of the Memorial Day recess. But the debate was dragging amid negotiations over how many amendments would be considered.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would keep the Senate in session as long as needed to finish the Trade Promotion Authority bill before senators left town for the weeklong recess. But as of Tuesday he was still trying to get an agreement with Democrats to limit the number of amendments.

McConnell also is working to defeat or avoid votes on some amendments, including one being proposed by Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., aimed at preventing currency manipulation. McConnell said the amendment would lead to a presidential veto and is opposed by most Republicans. “We’d like to send a bill to the House that’s in a form that they can live with,” McConnell said.

McConnell ruled out considering another amendment, offered by Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to extend the Export-Import Bank. The institution’s charter is set to expire at the end of June. McConnell said the extension measure deserved a vote but not on TPA, because it would be “another undue burden” on the bill.

He didn’t stop the Senate from debating an attempt to kill the catfish inspection program that the Agriculture Department is required to establish.

“The true purpose of the catfish program is to create a trade barrier to protect a small handful of catfish famers in two or three Southern states,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said during debate on the amendment. Mississippi’s senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, urged colleagues to leave the program alone, noting that it had been originally authorized in the 2008 farm bill. The Food and Drug Administration’s existing inspection program is inadequate, Wicker said. 


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