With a 60-37 vote Tuesday, the U.S. Senate opted to invoke cloture on Trade Promotion Authority legislation and will entertain a vote on the measure Wednesday. But it's been a rocky road to this point, riddled with "procedural snafus" that have threatened to derail it.
It's a measure that provides improved negotiating powers in regards to key trade deals by allowing only an up or down vote once deals are finalized. Supporters say this gives trading partners more certainty that their agreements won't be changed by amendments in Congress during the approval process.
But some legislators feel the TPA takes away too much power from Congress. Others feel the process is "secretive," not allowing enough transparency in regards to what provisions are included in trade deals under negotiation. Still others have concerns about job availability for U.S. workers.
Despite the apprehensions, some legislators feel granting TPA to President Obama – it has been granted to every president since 1974 – would allow the U.S. to become a bigger player in trade, which could boost U.S. exports and actually create jobs, while creating new markets.
As the Senate moves forward with a vote that could send TPA to approval Wednesday, here are five things to know about the TPA and its final hurdle:
1. Several ag groups support it. Key ag groups the American Farm Bureau, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and other livestock groups support the measure on the basis that it will increase exports of U.S.-raised meat and grains.
2. And a few don't … The National Farmers Union, on the other hand, suggests it will deepen an already significant trade deficit while lowering wages for U.S. workers. Also in the do not support camp are labor unions, which also fear TPA could result in fewer U.S. jobs, citing the closure of thousands of factories in the wake of past trade deals.
2. It will take 51 votes to pass. Democrats are largely leery of the TPA legislation, even though it’s a measure that is strongly supported by President Obama. But with only 51 votes required to pass, support is likely. And with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on board – calling Tuesday's vote an "important day for our country" – House Speaker John Boehner has also committed to delivering a "win for the American people" by passing TAA. More on that below…
4. TAA is expected to (eventually) go with it. Separated from the TPA bill in the House, the Trade Adjustment Assistance measure faces a "crucial procedural vote" in the Senate Wednesday, the Times reports. But McConnell is ready to act on it, too, according to a Roll Call update, and has said a TAA vote would immediately follow the TPA vote, with the hope that both would be sent to the President by next week’s recess. The TAA-TPA package was first passed in the Senate, but politics in the House left the two bills separated. While the House has approved TPA, it has yet to approve TAA, and is waiting on the Senate vote to move forward. The President says he will not sign TPA without TAA, Roll Call reported.
5. Ag groups say it's estimated facilitate considerable trade value. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes and cited by the National Pork Producers Council, a good Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (which groups say is possible with TPA) could generate 10,000 jobs tied to pork export growth alone. Another trade deal with Europe – the T-TIP – also could be boosted by TPA passage, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Tuesday.
Check out previous Penton Agriculture coverage on TPA:
Politics get in way of trade
House approves Trade Promotion Authority in second vote
Majority of ag groups support new TPA legislation