President Barack Obama’s signature Asian trade push cleared another hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Thursday after a knife-edge vote moved the White House closer to gaining the power to speed trade deals through Congress.
Senators voted 62-38 to give Obama a major victory and set up a speedy decision on the “fast-track” trade negotiating authority the president needs to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. TPP is seen as central to U.S. efforts to counter China’s increasing economic muscle.
Thirteen of 44 Democrats supported the legislation through the second Senate vote. Some supported moving ahead with fast track after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, assured them he would set a vote next month on a bill to renew the Export-Import Bank’s charter, according to leading Democratic senators. The charter is due to expire at the end of June.
They were joined by 49 of 54 Republicans, giving supporters of the legislation more than the 60 votes needed to proceed in the 100-member Senate.
Senators will now weigh amendments to the bill. If there is cooperation among all senators, the bill could come to a vote later Thursday, with only a simple majority of 51 needed for passage.
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