The Senate approved for a second time Wednesday a measure granting President Barack Obama fast-track authority in a move that will greatly increase the chances of eventually passing his massive international trade deal.
Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast-track, has been the primary point of tension for the president and many within his own party. The measure passed just a day after the Senate approved a procedural move to cut off debate and now just needs to be signed by the president — which he is likely to do.
With fast-track the president could submit a finalized trade deal to Congress, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that could not be amendment or filibuster and only need a straight up or down vote. The trade deal, which the president is negotiating between 11 other countries, has attracted a lot of criticism with many arguing it will benefit corporations and special interests at the expense of working Americans and the environment.
The policy, however, has also become one of the rare areas Obama and Republican lawmakers have been able to come together. While critics have noted concern over the lack of information that has come out during the trade negotiations, supporters are optimistic it will help create more trade liberation among partner countries like Vietnam, Japan and Australia.
The vote is actually the second time the Senate approved fast-track in an effort to help the president better negotiate TPP. After a successful vote in May, it was sent to the House were it was derailed. House lawmakers were unable to pass a matching measure because opponents prevented the renewal of the worker protection program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). For fast-track to have become law, the House and Senate versions had to match.
To work around the failure to pass TAA, supporters attached a standalone version of fast-track to the Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act which enables federal firefighters to access their retirement savings once they reach retirement age which they sent to the Senate for approval.
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