Statue of Liberty faces TPP tsunami
Statue of Liberty faces TPP tsunami (Image: Donkey Hotey, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Divi­sive trade pro­mo­tion author­i­ty leg­is­la­tion the White House is seek­ing to put the Trans-Pacif­ic part­ner­ship on a fast-track to pas­sage ran off the rails today, with the Unit­ed States Sen­ate vot­ing most­ly along par­ty lines not to invoke clo­ture on the bill. The leg­is­la­tion could still come up again, but at least for the time being, it is blocked, much to the dis­plea­sure of Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama.

Fifty-two sen­a­tors vot­ed to pro­ceed to final pas­sage on the bill, not count­ing McConnell, who switched his vote from yes to no so that he could bring the leg­is­la­tion up again lat­er. Forty-four sen­a­tors vot­ed to filibuster.

Although a num­ber of Democ­rats sup­port grant­i­ng Pres­i­dent Oba­ma the fast-track author­i­ty he wants (includ­ing, unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Pacif­ic North­west­’s Pat­ty Mur­ray, Maria Cantwell, and Ron Wyden), they all vot­ed to fil­i­buster today, with the lone excep­tion of Thomas Carp­er of Delaware.

The rea­son? Lever­age. Fast-track is a major pri­or­i­ty for Mitch McConnell, the top Sen­ate Repub­li­can. He wants it bad. Know­ing this, Democ­rats insist­ed that McConnell bring up three oth­er semi-relat­ed pieces of trade leg­is­la­tion as well.

The first, called Trade Adjust­ment Assis­tance, is meant to help work­ers who find them­selves out of work due to for­eign com­pe­ti­tion. Anoth­er  per­tains to cus­tom and trade enforce­ment, and has pro­vi­sions con­cern­ing cur­ren­cy manip­u­la­tion. The third would set up trade pref­er­ences for nations in sub-Saha­ran Africa.

McConnell refused to bring up the lat­ter two bills, and so the Democ­rats stuck togeth­er and fil­i­bus­tered the fast-track bill.

“The group is con­cerned about the lack of a com­mit­ment to trade enforce­ment, which is specif­i­cal­ly the cus­toms bill,” Wyden explained to reporters, speak­ing for him­self and oth­er pro-fast-track Democ­rats. “Until there is a path to get all four bills passed… we will, cer­tain­ly most of us, have to vote no.”

The White House tried to down­play the failed vote as a “pro­ce­dur­al snafu”.

But Jim Dean of Democ­ra­cy for Amer­i­ca char­ac­ter­ized it much differently.

“Under intense pres­sure from pro­gres­sives, the Sen­ate vot­ed 52 to 45 to block debate on Fast Track leg­is­la­tion that would have for­bid­den Con­gress from mak­ing amend­ments to the TPP,” he wrote in an email to DFA supporters.

“Near­ly every­one expect­ed the White House to win this clo­ture vote com­fort­ably. Now, pro-cor­po­rate admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and Repub­li­cans are scram­bling, try­ing to fig­ure out what to do next.”

“This vote is more than an amaz­ing but iso­lat­ed vic­to­ry. It’s irrefutable proof that the War­ren wing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty can defeat the TPP. Our activism is work­ing. Democ­rats are wak­ing up and real­iz­ing that votes to sup­port a pro-cor­po­rate agen­da over work­ing fam­i­lies will have real, last­ing consequences.”

(Full dis­clo­sure: NPI Pres­i­dent Robert Cruick­shank serves as a senior cam­paign man­ag­er for Democ­ra­cy for Amer­i­ca.)

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west broke down exact­ly along par­ty lines:

Vot­ing Aye: Repub­li­cans Mike Crap and Jim Risch (ID), Lisa Murkows­ki and Dan Sul­li­van (AK), Steve Daines (MT)

Vot­ing Nay: Democ­rats Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT)

Repub­li­cans Mar­co Rubio and Lind­sey Gra­ham did not par­tic­i­pate in the vote. Demo­c­rat Cory Book­er also did not participate.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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