Despite a rare consensus between Republicans and President Barack Obama, Senate Democrats were successful Tuesday in blocking a critical debate on trade promotion authority (TPA).
Last month, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan along with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden introduced a bill that would have granted the president the ability to unilaterally make international trade deals through TPA. The last time the president had such authority was 2007.
With some bipartisanship, the hope was high on passing the bill. But growing opposition, mainly among Democrats, stopped the legislation from even coming up for a debate on the Senate floor. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell condemned his colleagues for blocking debate on the bill.
“The rational for voting yes today, a vote that would have simply allowed the Senate to debate the issue was overwhelming,” McConnell said. “It was supported by the facts yet voices in the president’s party who railed against the future blocked it today.”
“I don’t routinely quote the president but today is no ordinary day,” McConnell continued. “So when the president says the hard left is just making stuff up, when the president says there are increasingly bizarre arguments that quote ‘Didn’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny’ end quote, it’s hard to argue with him.”
Nevertheless, opponents have argued it gives the president too much power. At the center of the debate is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade deal which is currently being negotiated between the president and 11 other pacific nations. Since much of the trade deal is still not publicly known or finalized, opponents argue granting the president TPA may result in a final deal that benefits corporations and special interests at the expense of American workers.
“Trade may offer a path to that stronger economy, but that is not something that is guaranteed,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez argued last month before the Senate Finance Committee.
“I don’t see the strong protection for workers, for the environment, or for the intellectual property of our key industries,” he added. “We are making a decision that goes right to the heart of our responsibilities as members of Congress – to protect the interests of our constituents.”
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