Senate OKs giving Obama fast-track trade authority
Washington — The Republican-led Senate has handed President Barack Obama a major victory by approving his request for enhanced trade negotiating authority.
The bill now faces a tough battle in the House.
The Senate voted 62-37 Friday to endorse Obama’s request for “fast-track” negotiating authority. It would let him present trade agreements that Congress can ratify or reject, but not change.
Obama says fast track would improve chances for a long-negotiated trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
Labor unions and many liberals oppose the bill. They say free-trade deals send U.S. jobs overseas.
Obama lobbied hard on trade. He phoned numerous senators, and repeatedly sent top aides to talk with lawmakers. He says U.S. products must reach more foreign markets.
Most Senate Democrats opposed the bill.
Earlier Friday, the Senate voted down an amendment proposed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to require any future trade agreement include enforceable provisions cracking down on foreign currency manipulation.
“If this fast track trade bill passes the Senate, it is deeply disturbing that it will not include language needed to protect American workers and businesses,” Stabenow said in a statement.
Legislation to prevent a lapse in the anti-terror Patriot Act still awaited action by lawmakers who covetously eyed a weeklong vacation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Obama’s indispensable ally on the trade bill, saw things differently than the White House on the Patriot Act legislation.
The disagreement centered on a House-passed provision to eliminate the National Security Agency’s ability to collect mass telephone records of Americans. Instead, the material would remain with phone companies, with government searches of the information allowed by court order on a case-by-case basis.
“The untried — and as of yet, nonexistent — bulk-collection system envisioned under that bill would be slower and more cumbersome than the one that currently helps keep us safe,” McConnell said.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.