Quantcast
Connect with us

Senate Dems put Mitch McConnell in a corner after blocking debate on ‘fast-track’ trade bill

Published

on

U.S. Senate Democrats delivered a major blow to President Barack Obama’s trade agenda on Tuesday, blocking debate on a bill that would have smoothed the path for a Pacific trade pact.

The stunning outcome cast doubt on legislation that is key to the Obama administration’s ability to complete the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, a central plank of its pivot to Asia.

ADVERTISEMENT

“What we just saw here is pretty shocking,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, after the Senate voted 52-45 – short of the 60 votes needed – to pave the way for debate on “fast-track” trade authority for Obama.

The vote marked a victory for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, an outspoken opponent of fast-track, after weeks of speculation that the toughest fight would be in the House of Representatives and not the Senate.

Under fast track, Congress can either approve or reject trade deals negotiated by the administration but not amend deals like the TPP, a potential legacy-defining achievement for Obama.

The failure to garner the necessary votes came after pro-trade Democrats, including Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, insisted that fast track be bundled together with three other trade bills, including one that would impose import duties on countries that manipulate their currencies for unfair trade advantage.

The White House strongly opposes the measure. A source familiar with negotiations in the Senate said one option would be to bundle the four bills together but take out the currency provision. That could be voted on separately, said the source, who asked not to be identified and stressed talks were continuing.

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats have also complained that the trade promotion authority (TPA) measure falls short on labor and environmental protections.

As Democratic support for the measure melted away, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican who was a major force for fast track, declared to reporters that the measure “may be dead.”

But following the vote, Democrats predicted it would come back.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I don’t think today’s vote is a death knell for TPA, but it is a very strong warning shot to the majority leader … that without worker protections, without enforcement provisions, they will likely not move forward,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons told reporters.

Negotiations on the TPP are nearly complete, but trading partners have said they want to see fast-track legislation enacted before finalizing the pact, which will stretch from Japan to Chile.

ADVERTISEMENT

The TPP would create a free trade zone covering 40 percent of the world economy – making it the biggest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement liberalized trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

More than two decades later, that pact is blamed by many on the left for factory closures and job losses and has soured sentiment toward the TPP.

Now, McConnell faces the tough choice of possibly bending to Democrats’ demands and in so doing, losing Republican votes in the Senate and House.

ADVERTISEMENT

Wyden said the four bills together were a package that would “throw out the 1990s NAFTA playbook on trade” and provided an opportunity to create jobs.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest played down the day’s developments as a “procedural snafu” and said the White House would continue to work to push the legislation forward.

Only one Democrat, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, backed the measure, despite a White House campaign blitz to win Democratic support.

Senate Republicans stuck together in voting to let the bill pass its first test. However, McConnell at the last minute switched his vote to “no” in a procedural move that lets him bring the bill to a vote again in the future.

ADVERTISEMENT

Failure sends a worrying signal about the level of support for fast track, which is opposed by unions, environmental and consumer groups but backed by businesses, which reacted with disappointment.

“Today, a minority in the Senate failed American workers and the more than 14,000 manufacturers … who need our nation to keep its mantle of economic leadership,” National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons said.

Although the administration points to research saying export-related jobs pay up to 18 percent more than other jobs, other studies show that increased competition from imports has cut wages and caused job losses in U.S. manufacturing.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

ADVERTISEMENT


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

New York’s coronavirus crisis tracked back to European travel — not China: scientists

Published

on

The New York Times reported Wednesday that scientists have tracked the cases of coronavirus in New York back to travel from Europe.

The Times explained that genomes show the link to those who came down with the virus back in February.

President Donald Trump has been celebrating his decision to shut down some travel from China, though not all travel. A whopping 430,000 people have traveled from China to the United States since the coronavirus crisis.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Warrant for journalists from Jerry Falwell Jr. came from Liberty University’s own police

Published

on

A right-wing commentator interviewed Jerry Falwell Jr. during his show Wednesday, where Falwell said that there were two arrest warrants open for reporters who came onto Liberty University's campus.

Upon further examination of the warrant, the police officer who signed the warrant was Detective/Sgt. A.B. Wilkins 206 LUPD. The LUPD is not the Lynchburg Police Department nor is there a Sgt. or Detective A.B. Wilkins. It's the police department under the authority of Liberty University.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump defenders Diamond and Silk locked out of Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation

Published

on

Fox Nation hosts Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, better known as Diamond & Silk, were temporarily locked out of Twitter on Wednesday for urging people to go outside and develop immunity against the coronavirus.

“The only way we can become immune to the environment; we must be out in the environment. Quarantining people inside of their houses for extended periods will make people sick!” the pair tweeted from their joint account.

A spokesperson for Twitter told Mediaite their account was locked over the tweet.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image