Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Advances Obama's Trade Bill

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Advances Obama's Trade Bill

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation Friday night to strengthen the administration's hand in global trade talks, clearing the way for an unpredictable summer showdown in the House.

The vote was 62-37 on the bill, which would let Obama complete trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. A total of 48 Republicans supported the bill, but only 14 of the Senate's 44 Democrats backed a president of their own party on legislation near the top of his second-term agenda.

Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., voted yes. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, voted no.

A separate measure to prevent parts of the anti-terror Patriot Act from lapsing, and a bill to prevent a cutoff in federal highway funding also awaited action by lawmakers eyeing a weeklong vacation set to begin whenever the work was done.

Senate passage of the trade bill capped two weeks of tense votes and near-death experiences for legislation the administration hopes will help complete an agreement with Japan and 10 other countries in the Pacific region.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Obama's indispensable ally in passing the bill, said it would create "new opportunities for bigger paychecks, better jobs, and a stronger economy.

"The tools it contains will allow us to knock down unfair foreign trade barriers that discriminate against American workers and products stamped "Made in the USA," he said.

The House is expected to debate the issue as early as next month.

There, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, supports the bill. But dozens of majority Republicans currently oppose it, either out of ideological reasons or because they are loath to enhance Obama's authority, especially at their own expense.

And Obama's fellow Democrats show little inclination to support legislation that organized labor opposes.

In the run-up to a final Senate vote, Democratic supporters of the legislation were at pains to lay to rest concerns that the legislation, like previous trade bills, could be blamed for a steady loss of jobs. …

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