Obama has placed his trade agenda high on the list of second term priorities. He wants to see both free trade treaties signed before he leaves office in 2016. As reported, this will be made easier by the passage of the bill on negotiation powers, nicknamed “fast-track.” The bill’s passage has now been made more likely in the Senate.
President Obama’s trade agenda cleared a key Senate hurdle and advanced toward likely passage on Thursday despite opposition from most Democrats.
The 62-38 vote capped a long, tense roll call on a measure that would allow Obama to negotiate trade deals that Congress can accept or reject, but not change. If opponents had garnered three more votes, they would have been able to block the legislation with a procedural move.
This means that the strong resistance to the bill, which was drummed up by Elizabeth Warren has begun to melt away. How could the Republicans and the administration convince people to switch their votes so quickly? It is call, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” But what did these Democrats get, and how did it happen?
The Hill tells us
The White House had already lost one procedural vote on trade last week, and a second defeat would have delayed the Senate’s work on fast-track until after the Memorial Day recess. That would have seriously blunted momentum ahead of what may be an all-out war in the Democratic Party to win passage in the House.
The President was going to need some help. He could call on Democrats to vote his way, but he could not force their hand. These pro-trade Democrats would have to be given something. The issue for the president was that the cost would have been too high for his Republican allies. So Obama brought in outside help.
The Hill continues
Before the vote, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got help from an outside source: Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, who met Thursday morning with Democratic leaders and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), a crucial swing vote.
McNerney asked Democrats to back the request to end debate on fast-track, which could help Obama complete a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal connecting the United States with countries in Latin America and Asia — and open markets and business opportunities for Boeing.
What could the CEO of Boeing do for these Senators?
With Republicans generally in favor of the measure, the pivotal votes came from Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and a handful of others who support the trade measure. They used the showdown as leverage for a commitment that the Senate would act next month on legislation to keep the Export-Import Bank in existence. The government-backed bank guarantees loans for overseas sales by U.S. companies.
These pro-trade Democrats want to save the Ex-In Bank. But many of the Republicans want to see the bank die, so these Democrats cannot get the legislation on the floor that they need to save the bank. Here is what these Republicans can do for these Democrats in the Senate. And this is the itch that was scratched.
But The Hill reports that it will likely not go much farther.
Boehner told reporters Thursday he would bring any legislation the Senate passes to reauthorize Ex-Im to the floor.
But he said it would then be open to an “open amendment process” allowing the House to “work its will.”
“That’s the only commitment that’s been made. There are a lot of options of what could happen,” he said.
The games we can play when we have no real moral compass.