WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate voted 60-38 on June 24 to pass “fast-track” legislation, giving President Obama the authority to submit trade agreements to Congress for a strict up-or-down vote.
The fast-track measure received exactly the number of votes it needed to pass. The day before, the Senate voted 60-37 to invoke cloture on the bill, cutting off further debate.
The legislation now goes to Obama for his certain signature. Obama's new fast-track authority will give him the impetus he needs to complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.
While many business interests support the TPP, labor unions oppose the agreement on the grounds that it potentially will move U.S. manufacturing and jobs overseas. The United Steelworkers union, which also organizes U.S. tire manufacturing workers, is one of the TPP's staunchest opponents.
In a June 23 statement, USW International President Leo W. Gerard said the cloture vote “applies grease to the wheels” to the Obama administration's efforts to complete TPP negotiations.
“Workers calling for fair trade are echoed around the globe,” Gerard said. “Our trade negotiators and those from other nations are now on notice that the TPP needs to promote the interests of working families rather than those continuing to undermine them.”
After the fast-track vote, a USW spokesman said the union sees the TPP issue as a victory, not a loss. “We have changed the way the American public thinks about trade agreements,” he said.
The USW will continue its fight against the TPP and other trade agreements that harm U.S. workers, the spokesman said.
On June 24, the Senate also passed by voice vote a measure providing trade adjustment assistance, including financial aid, education and retraining, for workers displaced by production moved overseas.
The House of Representatives was set to vote on that measure June 25.