I was out at lunch, something I rarely do, when the news on the Fast Track came over the screen in the restaurant. The Senate gave Obama a decisive defeat by refusing to let fast track authority for the TPP and other pending trade deals advance to the stage of being debated.
Thanks to all for your calls, e-mails and letters to Senators, Representatives, and local media. This is one of those rare cases where the process worked.
Legislation giving U.S. President Barack Obama authority to speed trade deals through Congress failed a crucial procedural test on Tuesday, delaying a measure that may be key to President Barack Obama’s diplomatic pivot to Asia.
In a setback to the White House trade agenda, the Senate voted 52-45 – eight votes short of the necessary 60 – to clear the way for debate on the legislation, which would allow a quick decision on granting the president so-called fast track authority to move trade deals quickly through Congress.
The vote marked a big victory for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, an outspoken opponent of fast-track.
The failure to garner the necessary votes came after key pro-trade Democrats, including Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, announced they would vote no on the procedural vote because the measure lacked some trade protections.
Bloomberg bizarrely has the heading for its Fast Track article, on its main page, in red, “Last Minute Rebellion”. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that most Democrat Congressmen opposed the deal; Obama has been trying to win over enough to give Republicans air cover so that they can claim these traitorous deals are “bipartisan”. From the story:
Senate Democrats staged a last-minute rebellion against one of President Barack Obama’s top legislative priorities by blocking a test vote on a trade measure that didn’t include companion measures they sought.
The vote, 52-45, effectively delays fast-track legislation Obama wants to expedite approval of trade accords. Supporters needed 60 votes to advance the bill to a final vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Democrats’ opposition was “pretty shocking” and vowed to keep working to reach an agreement he could bring back for a vote later.
Obama had sought the trade-promotion authority legislation to help him close a 12-nation deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership and submit it to Congress for approval without amendments. Obama scratched for every Democratic vote, but after weeks of meetings, telephone calls and personal appeals, the fiercest opponents remained within his party.
Note that the subtext is that Obama might find a way to surmount this procedural hurdle. However, eight votes is a large margin to overcome, particularly since Obama has been making a full court press. Moreover, the stance of many of the opponents is entirely reasonable: show us the bill. And Obama knows it will not withstand scrutiny.
Notice how Roll Call discussed the vote in a story posted shortly before the vote:
The White House is brushing off what is now expected to be the imminent filibuster of President Barack Obama’s fast-track bill on the Senate floor, with Press Secretary Josh Earnest blaming a “procedural SNAFU” for Democrats planning to vote en masse to block it.
The expected vote could deal a devastating blow to Obama’s ambitious trade agenda, and amounts to perhaps the biggest rebuke of this president by his own party.
But Earnest said Tuesday the president will continue to try and push fast-track authority through the Senate even after pro-trade Senate Democrats indicated they wouldn’t back the bill unless several bills — including one on currency enforcement — would move forward.
Thus I would not be surprised if we see another effort to get Fast Track passed, particularly since some Senators like Ron Wyden have made is clear they are amendable to a deal. However, such a visible defeat is a big boost to the opponents. Thus while a win has not been secured, it looks increasingly likely.
Obama has already resorted to shameless lies to try to rally support for the bill. It will be instructive to see what he tries next.
I looked for the roll call on the Senate’s site and do not see it up yet. I’m told it was a straight line vote, with the exception of Tom Carper of Delaware, who voted for Fast Track authorization.
Please call your Senators and Representatives, and tell them that this vote today was proof of deep seated opposition to both the President’s refusal to allow proper review of such important legislation and how dangerous they are to American citizens from what we can infer from the sections that have been leaked. This fight is not over till it is over, and it is important to keep pressing after gaining ground.
Update: I spoke to a Congressional source who said, “This is really bad for Obama” with considerable glee.
The Administration had a ministerial meeting set for the end of the month for TPP with the hope of resolving open issues. The other countries were not willing to make their offer until the Americans had secured Fast Track, so this is an embarrassment internationally and wrecks the planned timetable. Some Senators had been willing to approve Fast Track if the Senate would also pass an amendment that closed a loophole in existing legislation that allowed goods to be imported that used child or forced labor. Another part of a deal that the Senators had wanted was much tougher requirements on designating foreign countries as currency manipulators. Apparently, what happened today was that the Administration tried getting a vote on Fast Track only, and the Senators that were willing to go along if they got the child labor and currency manipulator protections passed rebelled.
The contact said that this development was bad for Obama on every axis. While the Administration could in theory revive the deal by giving in on the child labor and currency manipulator issue, Obama may actually not be willing to concede this point. This finally marks a big victory for Elizabeth Warren, who was the most visible face of this campaign and who the Administration attacked personally.