As expected, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on fast-track trade legislation Tuesday morning. The tally was 60-37. A vote on the actual fast-track measure—called Trade Promotion Authority—is expected Wednesday. The outcome on cloture is an indication that TPA will get the 60 votes it needs to pass.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah spoke in favor of cloture, arguing that if the fast-tracking failed, it would mean the United States would not have a strong voice in setting trade policy. "If we don't lead and set the rule of the game, other nations will," he said. Hatch also noted that while he personally opposes reauthorizing Trade Adjustment Assistance—a program that provides assistance to workers displaced by trade agreements, he realizes that it's the price of getting fast-tracking passed.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the leader of the Senate Democrats favoring TPA said it will stop the "race to the bottom" on labor and human rights and environmental protection.
"This is our chance to set a new course" from the trade policies of the 1990s, Wyden said, allowing the United States to establish higher standards on trade agreements and "ensure that our nation sets the rules." The choice, he said, is whether to let globalization proceed without the United States or with it. "Let's raise the bar for American values."
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio spoke in opposition. He objected to the speed at which the Majority Leader has moved to shut down debate, to the secrecy of the whole process. Members should not give up debate at a time "when we have maximum leverage over negotiations" on trade. Brown said he had repeatedly spoken to President Obama and the United States Trade Representative to fix the language in the Trans-Pacific Partnership on tobacco. TPP in its current form, he said, would give more power to tobacco companies in writing public health laws in small countries by threatening lawsuits against regulation and taking them to investor-friendly tribunals.
It's clear U.S. trade policy creates winners and losers, Brown said, pointing out that this has happened with the North American Free Trade Agreement, Central American Free Trade Agreement and the South Korean free trade agreement. He called it shameful there would not be more debate on the matter since passing TPA pretty much assures that TPP will pass.
A vote on TPA is expected Wednesday. A vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance is expected later this week.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this was a very important day. No doubt about that. Sen. Brown noted there would be celebrations in corporate offices on this important day.
Sen. Bernie Sanders noted how the trade agreement is backed by corporations that have off-shored millions of decent-paying jobs.
Democrats who voted for cloture:
Michael Bennet of Colorado, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Chris Coons of Delaware, Dianne Feinstein of California, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia and Ron Wyden of Oregon.