May 23, 2015

Last night, by a vote of 62-37, H.R. 1314, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or fast-track bill, passed through the Senate. (Note: the Senate used a House-passed tax bill as the vehicle for moving the bill because TPA is under the jurisdiction of House Ways and Means Committee, but the bill has NOT passed the House yet.)

Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Wyden (D-OR) previously worked out a deal to advance TPA. The Democrats agreed to allow fast-track to pass as long as it included Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), an ineffective government program unpopular with Republicans that provides assistance to those whose jobs have been displaced by trade.

However, last week, Democrats filibustered the bill, demanding to change the original agreement made by Wyden and Hatch. Instead of moving only two of the four trade bills that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, the Democrats demanded votes on all four. When the Democrats filibustered, Leader McConnell immediately caved and held a vote on the other two non-controversial bills (H.R. 1295, H.R. 644). Upon passage of those bills, cloture was invoked on the motion to proceed to H.R. 1314, and debate began.

Although Leader McConnell promised the Senate would follow “regular order,” only seven amendments were allowed and many amendments were blocked from debate and a vote. The final bill was opposed late last night by only five Republicans (Collins, Lee, Paul, Sessions, Shelby) but passed 62-37.

We expect House Leadership will try to bring TPA up after the Memorial Day recess. Regardless, while more conservative Members have started going public with their opposition (See this article), the deal-making and arm-twisting has begun. Your representative in the House must hear from you while they are home next week.

It is shameful that the Congress is even considering giving TPA to Obama when he has been negotiating for years without instruction from Congress – especially while at the same time they are trying to stop him from unilaterally negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran. Let your representatives know that you do not approve!

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