The PJ Tatler

After 'Washington Broke Arms and Heads,' TPA Squeaks by Cloture with 60 Votes

The Trade Promotion Authority bill, broken off from a trade package that hit Democratic roadblocks in the House, barely made it past a procedural vote today.

The bill passed cloture 60-37, with a final vote expected tomorrow on the legislation so sought by President Obama.

TPA passed cloture 60-37, with a final vote expected on the bill so sought by President Obama o

Thirteen Democrats backed the fast-track trade legislation. The only Republicans to vote against advancing the bill were Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), and Richard Shelby (Ala.).

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who was lobbying his colleagues to support the TPA, called it “the most progressive trade package ever produced.”

“I spent months negotiating this deal because it is in our country’s best interest. It includes a Trade Promotion Authority bill that creates unprecedented transparency and raises the bar on human rights, labor, and the environment, while promoting the open Internet,” Wyden said Monday, adding that he had “round-the-clock discussions” with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and leading Democrats over the past week.

“We urged Republican leaders to include Senator Brown’s trade enforcement bill as a sign of good faith that Republican leaders will do what is necessary to ensure the entire trade package gets done, and I remain committed to seeing all four bills enacted into law,” he said.

Both Senate independents voted against cloture. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) lamented that the vote today – “pushed by multi-national corporations, pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street – will mean a continuation of  disastrous trade policies which have cost our country millions of decent-paying jobs.”

TPA is called fast-track because it allows the president to negotiate a deal without congressional amendments. Lawmakers just get an up-or-down vote on the final product.

Sessions explained his “no” vote in a lengthy statement that stressed “Americans increasingly believe that their country isn’t serving its own citizens.”

“They need look no further than a bipartisan vote of Congress that will transfer congressional power to the Executive Branch and, in turn, to a transnational Pacific Union and the global interests who will help write its rules,” the senator said. “The same routine plays out over and again. We are told a massive bill must be passed, all the business lobbyists and leaders tell how grand it will be, but that it must be rushed through before the voters spoil the plan. As with Obamacare and the Gang of Eight, the politicians meet with the consultants to craft the talking points—not based on what the bill actually does, but what they hope people will believe it does. And when ordinary Americans who never asked for the plan, who don’t want the plan, who want no part of the plan, resist, they are scorned, mocked, and heaped with condescension.”

“Washington broke arms and heads to get that 60th vote—not one to spare—to impose on the American people a plan which imperils their jobs, wages, and control over their own affairs. It is remarkable that so much energy has been expended on advancing the things Americans oppose, and preventing the things Americans want… President Obama, and allies in Congress, have won this fast-track vote. But, in exchange, they may find that they are losing something far greater: the trust of the American people. Americans have a fundamental, decent, and just demand: that the people they elect defend their interests. And every issue to come before us in the coming months will have to pass this test: does this strengthen, or weaken, the position of the everyday, loyal American citizen?”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the vote was “just another example of the Senate getting back to work.”

“This is a dramatic departure from the old Senate because there’s actually been a lot of time for consideration of important pieces of legislation from the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act to the budget,” Cornyn said. “And now by moving this Trade Promotion Authority bill forward, we can ensure that American workers and businesses get the best deal in pending trade agreements.”