Senate Narrowly Approves of Vote for Fast Tracking the TPP
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: 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;