The Senate failed to reach a 60-vote threshold Tuesday to advance a bill granting President Obama “fast-track” authority to submit trade bills to Congress for up-or-down votes. While White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called it a “procedural snafu,” the 52-45 vote was a blow to Obama, potentially complicating negotiations for the wide-ranging Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to promote trade with “one of the world’s fastest growing regions” in Asia. Only one Democrat, Tom Carper of Delaware, voted in favor.
The failure of the cloture vote showed that even Democratic senators who were seen as pro-trade were willing to buck the President, who lobbied aggressively for the bill. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), one of the architects of the legislation, said that Republicans didn’t “offer them sufficient guarantees” that their concerns on customs enforcement would be addressed.
The package brought to the floor by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and supported by the White House, did not include many provisions pushed by Democrats, such as a ban on imported goods made with child labor and protections for American industries like steel that could be threatened by “dumping” of cheap imports.
In advance of the vote, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio railed against the version of the bill that had been presented for the vote. Naming several Republicans who had voted for Brown’s amendments in the Finance Committee—amendments that McConnell left off the bill brought to the floor—Brown urged them to vote the bill down until the protections he’d pushed were included.
“Majority Leader McConnell says he wants to respect committee work on legislation,” Brown said. “Well, here’s his chance.”