The Senate voted this morning to advance consideration of trade promotion authority, also known as “fast track” authority, for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), barely getting the 60 votes necessary to continue the bill.
The cloture vote, which was needed in order to proceed with a vote on fast track authority for the TPP, was narrowly passed at 60-37. All Senate Republicans and 13 Senate Democrats voted in favor of the motion to proceed. Democrats voting in favor of fast track included Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
The Senate now only needs a majority, or 50 votes, in order to pass fast track legislation.
The Senate approved fast-tracking the TPP in May as a package deal that included Trade Adjustment Assistance, a bill that provides assistance to workers who will lose their jobs because of the TPP. At the time, Senate Democrats would not agree to approve fast-track without the TAA.
Republican leaders in the House then decided to separate the two provisions, requiring members first vote on the TAA and then on fast-track, but both bills had to pass for fast-track to reach President Obama. House Democrats blocked TAA two weeks ago– a bill they would usually support– in order to stop fast-tracking of the TPP.
In addition, House Republicans have amended the customs bill, part of the larger trade package, to weaken anti-human trafficking measures in the fast track bill. Under an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the US may also be prevented from considering climate change during trade negotiations.
Over 2,000 organizations, including the Feminist Majority, released a joint letter opposing fast tracking the TPP, representing labor, environmental, farming, civil rights, digital rights, human rights, public health, faith, student, consumer, and other concerns.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been negotiated in near-secrecy, has been heavily criticized by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Fast-tracking TPP would prevent lawmakers from addressing concerns in the agreement by offering amendments. It would also prevent Congress from having significant input into US trading partners. That is a big concern, especially since among the countries included in the TPP is oil-rich Brunei, a country that adopted a vicious new penal code last year that threatens the rights and lives of women, lesbians, and gay men.
The Feminist Majority released a petition asking people to urge their Senators and Representative to vote against Fast Track and oppose the TPP.
Media Resources: Coalition for a Prosperous America 6/23/15; Feminist Newswire 5/11/15; 7/9/14; Huffington Post 6/18/15; Citizens Trade Campaign 4/27/15;