President Barack Obama is poised to get the Senate’s support for his free trade initiative after all.
A day after suffering an embarrassing setback when Obama’s own party rebuked him on a major trade bill, Senate leaders said they have struck a deal to move forward on the measure.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Democrat Harry Reid announced the deal on the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon.
The chamber has scheduled a crucial procedural vote for 2 p.m. Thursday on whether to move forward with trade promotion authority, which would allow Obama to submit the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership to Congress for a vote without amendments – which trade negotiators say is critical to convincing other countries’ leaders to sign off on the deal without fretting lawmakers will later try to change it.
First, though, the Senate will give Democrats votes on several other measures that they have demanded as a condition for taking up trade promotion authority.
One of those – an extension of an African trade preferences program – is uncontroversial. Another, which would give trade officials new enforcement mechanisms to crack down on countries that devalue their currency in order to give their products a price advantage in the United States, would have been a poison pill if it was lumped into trade promotion authority, threatening to muck up Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. As a separate bill, though, negotiators see it as far less problematic.
Debate on the trade promotion authority bill is expected this week with a vote on final passage expected sometime next week, according to aides involved with the issue.