WASHINGTON—The Senate voted May 14 to proceed with consideration of President Obama's fast-track trade bill, just after approving a bill to strengthen enforcement of global trade provisions, including those aimed at currency manipulation.
The currency manipulation bill passed 78-20, followed by 65 votes for the fast-track measure, five more than the 60 needed to approve a floor debate on the issue.
If approved, the fast-track bill would give President Obama authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.
The TPP is unpopular with trade unions and a large portion of the Democratic Party. Opponents of the trade deal insist it will allow other countries to dump their goods in the U.S. and usurp U.S. manufacturing jobs.
The United Steelworkers, the AFL-CIO and other unions have held protests across the nation urging legislators to vote against fast-track. Passage of the Senate currency manipulation bill addresses one of their biggest complaints—that China and other nations deliberately undervalue their currency to undercut domestic goods, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, offered qualified praise for passage of the currency manipulation bill. The AAM is a coalition whose members include the USW and various U.S. manufacturing firms united to promote and protect domestic manufacturing.
“We're pleased the Senate passed this important trade enforcement bill, but the job isn't done,” Paul said. “The overwhelming bipartisan vote will be viewed by American workers and manufacturers as nothing more than a cynical ploy unless the House of Representatives swiftly considers the Senate bill.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has shown little enthusiasm for currency manipulation legislation. Various news reports have quoted him as saying it is “laughable” to think Congress can control what other nations do with their currency.