The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (“Fast Track” trade bill), S. 995 and H.R. 1314, has made strange political bedfellows. The pro and anti “Fast Track” forces are so mixed that they’re tough to explain without charts.
The Bill would give the President increased power for a period of 6 years to negotiate and bind the U. S. to trade deals with foreign nations.
President Obama has pressed for passage of the bill, which would help him finish negotiations for a 12-country Pacific Rim trade pact, and assist him in current negotiations with European countries.
He is adamantly opposed in this regard by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a prominent Democrat who normally sides with the President. Warren claims that the provisions could allow a future President to undermine laws such as the Dodd-Frank banking regulations, even if they have very little to do with trade. A number of legal scholars and other Democratic Congressmen agree with Warren.
Meanwhile, a majority of Congressional Republicans agree with President Obama and support the bill. In fact, on May 19, 2015, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, took steps to close the debate on the bill and bring it closer to a vote. Republicans claim they have a sufficient number of votes for passage.
Meanwhile, many “average Joe” Republicans are furious at their Congressmen’s support of the “Fast Track” bill, calling them RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) for their willingness to give additional powers to the sitting Democratic President. Some of them are even vowing to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016!
Ultimately, the bill passed. The bill needed just 51 votes, but passed 60-38, making it look almost easy. That means lawmakers can vote only yes or no on a trade agreement, using a simple majority vote with no amendments. Presidents have had this power for decades, but the authority had expired. Nice job people!
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