Senate Democrats handed President Obama a victory on “fast-track” authority by the slimmest margin possible today.
13 pro-trade Democrats joined with Republicans in the Senate to provide a filibuster-proof majority in support of a strict up-or-down vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership without amendments from Congress.
The vote tally to end debate was 60 to 37. A final vote requiring only a 51 vote simple majority will come Wednesday and then the bill is expected to head to President Obama’s desk to be signed.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) voted against the procedural motion after initially backing the bill.
The 13 other Democrats voted to approve the embattled trade agenda even after it had been stripped of a workers assistance program for Americans displaced by the deal. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program was a part of the last fast-track package approved by the Senate in May, but became a point of contention last week after House Republicans attacked it as “welfare.”
Texas Senator and 2016 hopeful Ted Cruz explained his newfound opposition in an op-ed on the conservative Breitbart blog today, arguing that “TPA in this Congress has become enmeshed in corrupt Washington backroom deal-making.”
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, co-author of the fast-track legislation, said he received assurances that ensure trade adjustment portion and two other related bills will also be passed, "I held round-the-clock discussions with the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House and leading Democrats over the past week.”
“This is our chance to set a new course. This is our chance to put in place higher standards in global trade on matters like labor rights and environmental protection, shine some real sunlight on trade agreements and ensure that our country writes the rules of the road,” he said
Fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said she would vote to advance the bill because according to her expanded trade "helps California and the country as a whole."
While Rep. Steve Israel of New York argued that Democrats would be "cutting off our noses to spite our face," if they voted against the Trade Adjustment Authority at this point.
Reaction from progressives was swift. Democracy for America, a group founded by Howard Dean, slammed Senate Democrats who “openly betrayed” the grassroots base.
And the labor force AFL-CIO pushed a last-minute effort to ditch the deal, writing Monday, that TPP “will do nothing to prevent repeating the mistakes of failed trade policies that have contributed to stagnating wages, increasing inequality and the closure of more than 60,000 factories since 2000.”
Republicans have promised to bring TAA for a vote on Thursday. Senate Democrats are expected to support the measure.
New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen told Politico, “I have been assured that the House and the Senate will take up TAA and the enforcement legislation,” adding “I appreciate the speaker saying he’s going to take it up this week and Sen. McConnell filing cloture on it.”
For his part, outpsoken critic Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called the bill "shameful" before voting against it.