Senate Democrats blocked fast-track trade legislation today on a procedural vote, keeping the bill from coming to the floor for debate.
The vote was 52-45, with a 60-vote threshold required.
“The simple fact is that to pass the Senate, bills must have strong Democratic support. Nearly every bill passed by the Senate this year has enjoyed the support of over ninety percent of Senate Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has voiced strong opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, said.
“Senator McConnell needs to work with Democrats for our votes. I hope he will reconsider his approach.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pressed senators to begin debate on the bill, noting it’s “simply a placeholder that will allow us to open the broad debate on trade our country needs.”
“Voting yes to open debate on a 21st Century American trade agenda offers every member of this body the chance to stand up for American workers, American farmers, American entrepreneurs, and American manufacturers,” McConnell said. “It’s a chance to stand with Americans for economic growth, opportunity, and good jobs. Selling products stamped ‘Made in America’ to the many customers who live beyond our borders is key.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asserted in a floor speech, though, that those who says free-trade agreements create jobs “have been proven wrong time after time after time.”
“The administration says trust us. Forget about those other trade agreements. The TPP is special. This time it will be different. This one really will create jobs, despite the fact that every major organization representing the working people of this country says the exact opposite,” Sanders argued. “The TPP would force American workers to compete against desperate workers in Vietnam who make 56 cents an hour. We have got to do better than that.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he voted against cloture “because trade promotion must go hand-in-hand with worker protections and trade enforcement.”
“If the Senate considers TPA, we absolutely must do so as part of a package that includes the other three essential bills before us – providing assistance for workers in displaced industries, establishing stronger remedies when trade agreements are breached, and promoting investment in developing countries,” Blumenthal said.
McConnell called the filibuster “pretty shocking.”
“There are always limits to what can be accomplished when the American people choose divided government. But it doesn’t mean Washington shouldn’t work toward bipartisan solutions that make sense for our country,” he said. “Trade offers a perfect opportunity to do just that.”
He later told reporters, “Look, this is not a game, this is about trying to accomplish something important for the country that happens to be the president’s number one domestic priority at the moment.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called it “unfortunate that Senate Democrats have chosen to delay the President’s top legislative priority,” but stressed “the Republican House will continue working on a free trade framework that creates jobs, increases wages and expands markets for U.S. businesses.”
“Either America will write the rules of global commerce for the 21st Century, or China will do it for us to the detriment of U.S. workers,” Scalise said. “House Republicans will continue working to ensure that America leads the world, grows our economy, and puts the interests of our country’s workers and families first.”