The Slatest

Obama’s Fast-Track Trade Bill Not Dead Yet

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, shown here on Tuesday with Sens. John Thune, John Cornyn, and Mitch McConnell, told reporters he was “about ready to kill somebody” after Democrats blocked a trade promotion bill.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate will hold a vote Thursday afternoon on whether to open debate on a bill granting President Obama the power to send Congress trade deals it cannot amend, NPR News reports. “Fast-track” authority, which was blocked by Senate Democrats on Tuesday in a stinging rebuke to the White House, gets a second chance under a deal to allow votes on a few Democratic trade provisions that were left out of the version of the bill first brought to the floor by Republicans. From NPR:

The solution calls for separate votes on bills that Democrats had wanted to move as a single package on the floor, according to NPR’s Ailsa Chang. Ailsa says the Senate will vote on a customs enforcement bill that includes Sen. Charles Schumer’s safeguards aimed at reducing currency manipulation.

The customs bill “will get a vote tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.,” reports Ailsa Chang, along with “a vote on a bill giving trade preference to sub-Saharan African countries.”

The bargain does not call for votes on all of the initiatives Democrats tried to attach to the trade promotion authority bill, and the few provisions that do get votes will be considered as standalone measures rather than as amendments. The all-in-one approach Democrats wanted was “not acceptable,” GOP Majority Whip John Cornyn told Politico. “We’re not willing to change that deal. Plus we’re not willing to let Democrats run the place. They seem to think that they’re still in the majority and that Sen. Reid is the majority leader. He is not.”

Minority Leader Harry Reid seemed to favor the compromise, saying, “I think we’ve come up with something that’s fair,” while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he looked forward to “our colleagues from across the aisle joining with us,” according to Politico. Some of the more liberal Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, seem unlikely to take McConnell up on his offer.

The president’s push for the fast-track authority’s passage stoked tensions between Sen. Brown and the White House, with Brown implying that sexism could be motivating Obama’s recent criticism of Sen. Warren on trade. Brown’s communications director later told Slate that “Sen. Brown believes that this debate shouldn’t be personal, but about getting best possible deal for American workers and American manufacturers,” but the apology hinted at by Obama press secretary Josh Earnest was not forthcoming.

Wednesday’s deal to get cloture seemed to come just in time to keep things cordial in the world’s most deliberative body. Republican Orrin Hatch, for one, was not feeling Reid and McConnell’s bipartisan camaraderie. “I’m about ready to kill somebody,” Hatch told Politico as he headed to the floor to learn the details of the bargain.