WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 23, 2015) — This morning, the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a procedural motion that virtually assures passage of the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority legislation that, for the first time in the modern free-trade era, strips provisions to provide assistance to workers whose jobs are shipped overseas.
Needing 60 votes to invoke cloture and end debate on the bill, it passed 60-37, with both Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray voting “yes.” The vote on Fast Track’s final passage is expected later this week, but only requires a simple majority or 51 votes to pass. Then President Obama will sign the bill limiting debate and forbidding Congress from amending free-trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for the next six years.
Cantwell and Murray had previously said they would not support the Fast Track bill unless it included reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which extends unemployment benefits and offers job retraining to workers displaced by global trade. The TAA program expires in September.
But after the TAA was stripped from the Senate’s previously approved version of the Fast Track bill by the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) committed to passing the TAA bill separately later. That promise was sufficient to convince Cantwell, Murray and 11 other Senate Democrats to vote “yes” this morning and provide the margin necessary — with not a single vote to spare — to advance the Fast Track bill.
In the House, the Fast Track bill was opposed by Democratic Reps. Denny Heck, Jim McDermott and Adam Smith. But fellow Democratic Reps. Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Rick Larsen joined all Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert in voting “yes.”