The Senate will vote again Thursday on a plan to open debate on President Barack Obama’s request for fast-track trade authority, a bill aimed at making it easier to pass a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact.
After Democratic senators united to reject the proposal on Tuesday, there’s a good chance that enough of them will join Republicans to get it approved this time around.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced the plan for a new vote on Wednesday.
It came after Democrats abandoned their demands to include three other bills in a package with the fast-track legislation: One would have provided trade-adjustment assistance for workers who lost their jobs due to international trade; a second would have included measures to crack down on currency manipulation, which makes it easier for countries to export goods at lower prices to the U.S.; and a third included provisions for trade with Africa.
Instead, the Senate will vote on some of the issues separately.
Republicans had particularly objected to including the currency manipulation language in a fast-track bill, calling it a poison pill that would have drawn a veto from Obama.
McConnell said the new plan is "a sensible way forward without killing the bill."
If the Senate approves the motion to proceed to the fast-track bill, McConnell said senators would be free to offer a series of amendments, with the debate continuing into next week.
"I appreciate that offer," Reid said. "This is a complex issue, one that deserves a full and robust debate."
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said he’s now "thoroughly committed" to getting a fast-track bill passed, hopefully before the Senate breaks for a week-long recess at the end of next week.
Under the fast-track bill, Congress would take an up-or-down vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as soon it’s negotiated and submitted to Congress by the president. No amendments or filibusters would be allowed, presumably making it easier for the White House to get passed.