Senate Democrats handed President Obama a stinging rebuke on Tuesday, blocking consideration of legislation granting their own president accelerated power to complete a major trade accord with Asia.
The Senate voted 52-45 on a procedural motion to begin debating the bill to give the president “trade promotion authority,” eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed. Republicans and pro-trade Democrats said they would try to negotiate a trade package that could clear that threshold.
But the vote Tuesday presented Mr. Obama what might be a no-win situation. He may have to accept trade enforcement provisions he does not want in order to propel the trade legislation through the Senate, but those same provisions might doom the Pacific trade negotiations that legislation is supposed to lift.
So now Senate Democrats can step in and force changes to the negotiations, and that was exactly the plan.
According to several Senate sources — whose accounts match up with what some reporters are spilling forth on the twitters — the deal between Senate Dems and Republicans looks something like this:
1) The Senate would vote first on a package that includes a measure stiffening enforcement on foreign companies evading import duties and a measure that would force the administration to take action against countries manipulating currency to juice exports. Those were chiefly sought by Senators Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer. There might also be a vote on a measure that would favor U.S. imports of some products from certain African countries.
2) Then the Senate would proceed to a vote on whether to move forward with Fast Track, which would mandate that a final Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is subject only to an up-or-down Congressional vote, with no amendments or filibusters. The vote on Fast Track would also include Trade Adjustment Assistance, which helps workers hurt by trade policies. Presumably, if the first two above items sought by Dems pass, a group of around a dozen pro-trade Democrats — who helped block Fast Track yesterday — would then vote to move it forward.
Previously, that group of pro-trade Democrats had joined the filibuster of the Fast Track vote because it only included assistance for workers displaced by trade, and not the currency manipulation or enforcement provisions.
And in the end, there may be no deal at all...or the rest of the world will simply make a deal and we will have no seat at the table for US workers at all.
It's funny. This is basically the exact situation the Senate placed the President in when it came to the Iran negotiations: the insertion of a poison pill that would scrap the entire deal. Senate Dems sure were pissed off when Republicans tried it, and the fate of an Iran nuclear deal remains up in the air as a result.
But putting in a poison pill measure doesn't seem to be a problem for Dems anymore. That currency manipulation provision may be the straw that breaks the entire TPP.
Amazing how that works.