Senate Democrats Block Trade Promotion Authority

May 13, 2015

free_tradeYesterday, Senate Democrats delivered a major setback to President Barack Obama’s ambitious trade agenda by voting against a procedural motion to consider Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which would set specific conditions on the president when he is negotiating foreign trade deals and grant Congress final approval on any agreement reached by the participating parties without amendments in an up-or-down vote.

The 52-45 vote was eight short of the 60 needed to proceed, with Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) being the only Democrat to vote for the motion. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted no only to reserve the right to bring the motion up again.

Senate Democrats opposed their own president and united around demands that trade promotion authority be paired with a series of other measures, including: cracking down on currency manipulation, assisting workers displaced by globalization, tightening child labor law and fortifying the government’s response to unfair trade practices. They also cited the president has been too secretive about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement the administration planned to bring to Congress under the authority.

The U.S. has two major trade agreements currently under negotiation. The TPP would set trade rules for a dozen countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, and will cover 40 percent of the world’s economy. Also at stake in the TPA vote is a trade agreement with members of the European Union called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Supporters argue that without TPA, these other countries will not conclude trade agreements with the U.S., since amendments in Congress could alter the terms of previously agreed upon measures.

Due to the delay in the Senate, the House is unlikely to move ahead with a vote on TPA in the near term.