Fast Track bill passed in the U.S. House and moves to the Senate

Posted by Soledad Vega on Thu, 06/18/2015 - 15:42

If you're feeling a bit confused by now, you're not alone. 

Article by Cristina Marcos and Vicki Needham for The Hill

The House on Thursday took the first step toward resuscitating the White House’s trade agenda by passing legislation granting President Obama fast-track authority.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the White House and GOP leaders are seeking to strike a deal with pro-trade Democrats.

The House vote was 218-208, with 28 Democrats voting for it.

This is the second time in a week the House has voted to approve the controversial fast-track bill. On Friday, the House voted 219-211 in favor of fast-track, which would make it easier for Obama to complete a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.

In last week’s vote, the House GOP paired the fast-track bill with a measure known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that gives aid to workers displaced by trade. Both measures needed to be approved in separate votes for the entire package to move forward.

House Democrats have historically favored TAA, but they voted against it on Friday to kill fast-track, which is deeply opposed by unions and other liberal groups.

The White House still wants both measures to reach Obama’s desk, but is now advancing a different strategy that would see the two bills move separately.

The problem lies in the Senate, which previously approved a package that included both bills.

If the two move separately, Republicans and the White House will have to convince Senate Democrats to back fast-track on the promise that TAA will move forward at a later time.

The president spoke with a group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday at the White House, and talks continued in the Senate on Thursday on a way to give the president trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track.

One possible solution would see the Senate vote first to pass a trade preferences bill, this time with the TAA program attached. It would then be sent to the House for a vote before the Senate considers fast-track.

- Read more at The Hill