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Senate Votes to Advance Fast-Track Trade Bill

Trade promotion authority is one step closer to passage—the legislation passed a key Senate vote Thursday morning to cease debates and move to a vote on TPA, though the debates ahead are expected to be trying.

The fast-track trade bill, which would allow President Obama to wrap up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, narrowly cleared a Senate procedural vote 62-38, a hair more than the 60 votes needed to advance.

In advance of the vote, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the trade bill’s main author, said, “The TPA bill is the only way Congress can effectively assert its priorities in our ongoing trade negotiations. It’s the only way that we can ensure that our trade negotiators can reach good deals with our trading partners. And it’s the only way we can ensure that our pending trade agreements even have a shot at reaching the finish line.” He added, “We need to pass it to maintain our standing in the world and continue to advance American values and interests on the world stage. And we need to pass it to demonstrate to the American people that despite our many disagreements, their elected representatives are capable of addressing important issues and solving real problems.”

Some senators are concerned, however, that not enough debate on the legislation is being allowed, and the whole process is hasty rather than thorough.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who has spoken openly about his opposition to TPA, said, “Why we’re rushing to end debate before it’s truly begun just is mystifying. Regardless of whether they support or oppose the underlying bill, I hope my colleagues recognize the importance of getting fast-track legislation right, not getting it done by Memorial Day.”

Two hundred amendments have been offered by 46 senators, but the ones ruled as germane to the legislation could include stipulations that trade deals address currency manipulation, an amendment to prevent investment protections trade agreements and an amendment to require Congressional approval before the president can start free trade agreement talks with a new nation.

The Senate will now enter a period of up to 30 hours of debate and vote on a series of amendments before a final vote on TPA expected on Friday.