Senate Democrats block action on Obama's trade agenda
Updated: 2015-05-13 09:59
Protesters, many against the so-called fast track trade authority of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, rally outside the hotel where US President Barack Obama is participating in a Democratic National Committee (DNC) event in Portland, Oregon May 7, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats dealt President Barack Obama a stinging setback on trade Tuesday, blocking efforts to begin a full-blown debate on a top priority of his second term.
The president's supporters said they will try again, and Obama summoned key Democrats to the White House to discuss possible strategies. One possibility was to drop a contentious issue dealing with countries that manipulate their currency, but it was unclear whether that would resolve the impasse.
What was clear, however, was that Obama suffered a rebuke from his own party, led by some who served with him in the Senate.
Only one Senate Democrat, Tom Carper, voted for a Republican-drafted motion to start considering Obama's request for "fast track" trade authority. Fast track would let the president present trade agreements like the nearly completed Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade pacts that Congress can ratify or reject, but not amend.
Proponents needed 60 votes to thwart a Democratic filibuster, but managed only 52 in the 100-member Senate.
Tuesday's vote highlighted the deep divide between Obama and the many congressional Democrats who say such trade deals hurt US jobs. Leading the fight against fast track are labor unions and liberal groups, which are crucial to many Democrats' elections.
Most Republican lawmakers support free-trade agreements. They were in the strange position Tuesday of losing a vote but seeing the Democratic president take the blame.
"It is the president's party," said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. "It's amazing to me that they would do this to the president on a bill of this magnitude."