If you really want to see how much clout President Barack Obama has on Capitol Hill these days, watch the Senate on Tuesday. The same liberal Democratic senators who stuck with the White House through six years of politically excruciating votes are set to break away in droves to oppose Obama’s free trade efforts.
Their goal is to block a bill that greases the wheels for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an enormous 12-country trade deal that Obama wants — badly — to add to his legacy. And their open rebellion against their own party’s president shows that lawmakers are viewing their own political fortunes as increasingly divorced from Obama’s.
The internal rift will be forced into the open Tuesday when the Senate casts its first procedural votes on a bill called “trade promotion authority” — or “fast track.” It would allow Obama to submit trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no amendments. That’s key, trade negotiators say, to getting other countries involved in the talks, like Japan, Australia, Canada and Mexico, to take their own political risks of signing off on a final agreement, knowing American lawmakers won’t seek to re-open it later.
Sure, why not? Because if there’s one thing Obama needs in his lame-duck presidency, it’s even more authority to act unilaterally.
Anyone who contributed a dime to McConnell’s fraudulent re-election campaign should sue. I said before the election that the best possible outcome would be for the GOP to retake the Senate and for McConnell to lose his seat. I stand by that statement.
UPDATE: Both Obama and McConnell lose.
The Senate voted 52-45 on a procedural motion to begin debating the bill to give the president “trade promotion authority,” eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed. Republicans and pro-trade Democrats said they would try to negotiate a trade package that could clear that threshold.
But the vote Tuesday presented Mr. Obama what might be a no-win situation. He may have to accept trade enforcement provisions he does not want in order to propel the trade legislation through the Senate, but those same provisions might doom the Pacific trade negotiations that legislation is supposed to lift.
A very satisfactory outcome.