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Congress Secures Trade Promotion Authority For Obama

Trade Promotion Authority cleared its last major hurdle in Congress Tuesday in a huge win for Obama, delivered to him by none other than congressional Republicans.

The Senate voted to end debate on the bill that grants Obama fast track trade authority, just barely securing the 60 votes needed but virtually guaranteeing its final passage Wednesday, which will require just 51 votes. (RELATED: Obama’s Fast Track May Still Have Hope With Republican Help)

“This has been a long and rather twisted path to where we are today, but it’s are a very, very important accomplishment for the country,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement following the vote.

TPA would give Congress more power to shape the trade agreement by defining specific objectives the president must work toward in a deal, and by setting new transparency rules. But once the president submits a deal to Congress, TPA greatly restricts the Senate’s ability to block or complicate the deal.

Any deal the president submits to Congress in the next six years is almost guaranteed to pass, because the Senate must promptly approve or reject the deal with no chance to amend it and little time for debate. And just 51 votes would be required for passage — a far cry from the 61 votes required for major legislation. (RELATED: Why Are Senate Republicans So Eager To Cede Their Trade Authority To Obama?)

Obama says he needs TPA to conclude a massive trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he is currently negotiating with 11 other countries. And the Republicans who fought for the deal say TPA is key to future free trade agreements that will benefit the U.S. economy.

Critics contend its a dangerous concession of Senate power to a president that can’t be trusted.

TPA was initially combined with a Trade Adjustment Assistance bill that would protect workers adversely affected by trade by offering them new job training and pay assistance. The House approved the TPA part of the package last week but rejected TAA in an effort to bomb the whole package. (RELATED: Unions Are pissed Republicans Used Firefighters To Pass Fast Track)

But House and Senate leaders separated the two measures into stand alone bills. The House passed TPA last week and will vote on TAA this week. Regardless of what happens to TAA, the Senate is now set to pass TPA and send it to Obama’s desk.

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