First Step Down the Winding Path to the Fast Track

So the House took the first step in a highly convoluted strategy towards the enactment of Trade Promotion Authority yesterday, confirming an earlier narrow vote on a free-standing Fast Track measure by a 218-108 margin, with 28 Democrats on board. Now further progress (with July 30 as the apparent deadline) depends on the the Senate reduplicating an earlier narrow vote to approve TPA, but this time with promises to enact related “sweeteners” rather than actual packaging.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Siobhan Hughes explains:

[Pro-trade Senate Democrats] see the package as four parts: Fast-track, the workers assistance, a separate enforcement measure that would give the U.S. stronger tools to combat against unfair trading practices and one to extend trade preferences with sub-Saharan African nations.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said he and other pro-trade Democratic senators want to make sure all four items get enacted.

If they don’t buy promises from the White House and Mitch McConnell that this will ultimately happen, the whole TPA/TPP bundle could fall in a ditch. But the promise may depend not only upon keeping most House Republicans on board for non-TPA provisions they don’t like, but also weening some House Democrats away from their strategy of voting against everything remotely connected to TPA. So there’s some talk of talking them off their votes against TAA by convincting them TPA is a done deal.

You can see how this whole thing’s a bit of a house of cards. If I were Ron Wyden, I’d look around for some other concessions to demand. Without him and his confreres, nothing will happen.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.