Democrats in the Senate have blocked — for now — a vote on the fast-track trade authority that President Obama had sought and Republicans had supported.
The tally was 52 to 45 in favor, eight short of the 60-vote threshold needed to take up the bill.
It’s a rebuke to Obama, who has made the trade bill a key part of his second-term agenda, from his fellow Democrats.
But this may not be the Senate’s final say on the trade promotion authority proposal, which would ultimately clear the way for passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership — a complex trade agreement that its supporters say will provide new markets for American goods as well as new jobs.
Democrats — even some who support the trade agreement, like Ron Wyden of Oregon — voted to block the Senate from taking up the bill, because they want Republicans to agree to take up other trade-related measures. The Washington Post reports that Republicans are willing to agree to some, but not all of the Democrats’ conditions:
“Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Republicans were willing to attach ‘trade adjustment assistance’ — that is, funding authority for worker assistance programs — to the fast-track bill. But he made no pledge to include the enforcement bill, which would take aim at Chinese currency manipulation and is opposed by the administration, or a fourth bill concerning trade with Africa.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement after the vote, saying McConnell “needs to work with Democrats for our votes. I hope he will reconsider his approach.”