» Subscribe Today!
The Power of Information
Home
The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition
X
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Article
VOL. 39 | NO. 19 | Friday, May 8, 2015

Senate vote on trade looms big, but won't settle the debate

Print | Front Page | Email this story

WASHINGTON (AP) — A much-anticipated Senate vote on trade will pack some suspense Tuesday, but it won't be the final word, no matter how it turns out.

Supporters of President Barack Obama's trade agenda need 60 votes in the 100-member Senate merely to start a full-blown debate on the legislation. Falling short would sting, and possibly build momentum for opponents. But the pro-trade forces would likely try again this year, possibly under better conditions.

By the same token, starting the full debate this week is no guarantee of success. Labor unions, liberal groups and others vehemently oppose the legislation. It faces "poison pill" amendments, showdowns over "currency manipulation" and, eventually, similar confrontations in the House.

Lobbying for and against the legislation hit overdrive this week. Key groups scheduled almost hourly events on Capitol Hill ahead of Tuesday afternoon's expected vote. Obama devoted much of the weekend to trade, visiting a Nike plant in Oregon and pointedly criticizing a leading Democratic foe, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in an interview with Yahoo News. Obama maintains that U.S. goods and services need better access to the 95 percent of world consumers who live in other countries.

Obama seeks "fast track" authority that would let him present Congress with proposed trade agreements it can ratify or reject, but not amend. If successful, he's likely to ask Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated with 11 other countries, including Japan, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico. Other free-trade proposals could follow.

Obama's fiercest resistance is from fellow Democrats who say trade deals take away U.S. jobs. Most Republican lawmakers support trade agreements. But at least some of the 54 GOP senators appear likely to oppose the president Tuesday, requiring him to hunt for as many as a dozen Democratic supporters.

Several Democrats say they will back fast track only if Republican leaders clear a path for three other trade measures. One, to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act, is uncontroversial.

The second calls for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides federal aid to workers displaced by trade agreements. Republicans don't like it, but reluctantly acknowledge it's the price for winning even modest Democratic support.

The third bill, involving Customs enforcement, is the stickiest. It includes a measure to take actions against countries that keep their currency artificially low, which makes their exports more attractive. The Obama administration opposes the "currency manipulation" measure, saying it could invite international challenges to the Federal Reserve's policies meant to boost the economy.

Late Monday, Senate leaders were sparring over how to "package" the four trade bills.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a Senate speech, "It's incredibly important for American workers that we pass this bill."

He noted that senators aren't committed to voting for fast track's final passage if they vote Tuesday to start debate.

"Voting to proceed to a bill is a vote that says, 'This is worthy of debate,'" McConnell said. Senators will have later chances to support, oppose or amend the bill, he said.

Democratic opponents urged wavering colleagues to vote against McConnell on Tuesday — even if they might support fast track in the end — to force Republicans to deal first with a surveillance measure that Democrats consider more pressing. That strategy suggests Obama might have better luck on trade in a month or so, should he fall short in Tuesday's vote.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest reflected the vote count's uncertainty Monday, telling reporters: "We're hopeful that other Democrats will keep an open mind as they evaluate what we're trying to do here."

Pro-trade and anti-trade groups flooded websites with reports, polls and arguments for their sides. The U.S. Conference of Mayors held a conference call to support Obama on fast track. The conservative group Heritage Action for America declared that Trade Adjustment Assistance "undermines free trade."

As for Tuesday, pro-trade Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Tom Carper, D-Del., scheduled a late-morning Capitol event with the National Association of Manufacturers and other groups supporting Obama.

They will be shortly followed by an anti-fast-track group including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & RSS:
Sign-Up For Our FREE email edition
Get the news first with our free weekly email
Name
Email  
TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0