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Fast-Track Bill Clears Senate Hurdle, TPP Could Soon be Settled

President Obama’s trade agenda just advanced one step further as the U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to move ahead on the Trade Promotion Authority bill, which once passed, would give the president the power to finalize pending trade deals.

The Senate voted 60-37 to end debate on the fast-track authority bill, a motion that sets up for a vote on final passage Wednesday. If approved Wednesday, the bill would go straight to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, passage would mean the president could send trade deals to Congress for yes or no votes without amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said on the floor following the vote, “This is a very important day for our country. We’ve demonstrated we can work together on a bipartisan basis to achieve something that is extremely important for America. Not only when we confirm this Trade Promotion Authority will we have the mechanism in place for the president to finalize an extraordinarily important deal with a number of different Asian countries, it will indicate that America is back in the trade business,” according to C-Span transcripts of the Senate session.

Democrats had been hesitant to vote yes on TPA without Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which provides aid to workers displaced because of free trade agreements, but 13 backed the bill in Tuesday’s vote.

TAA was previously part of the last Senate-approved TPA package, but leaders in both chambers separated the two to move fast track forward and instead included a non-controversial pension bill in today’s approved TPA package, which the House has already approved.

Following Wednesday’s vote, the Senate will vote on a package that includes TAA and the Trade Preferences bill that includes a 10-year renewal of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), an update to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and an extension of the Haiti HOPE/HELP program.

The House will still have to vote on the package including TAA, which has gotten opposition from conservatives for its lofty costs.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) said in a statement Tuesday, “We remain committed to ensuring that both TPA and TAA are passed and enacted into law.  The House has passed TPA as a standalone measure.  The House will consider TAA once it passes the Senate as part of a new trade preferences bill.  And we are ready to go to conference on the customs bill. Our goal is to get TPA and TAA to the president’s desk this week and deliver this win for the American people.”