Senate advances fast-track bill 

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 22, 2015

The Senate voted today to close debate on its fast-track trade bill, paving the way for a final vote that is expected to take place before the Memorial Day recess.

The 62-38 vote ended a bipartisan filibuster and sent the trade promotion authority legislation to the floor for final passage.

The Obama administration needs the measure, which would give Congress an up-or-down vote on trade deals without the ability to offer amendments, to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal with 11 Asian nations and a separate trade deal with Europe.

Trade promotion authority would boost the economy and “ensure that the United States will continue to maintain the highest level of health, safety, consumer, environmental, labor and financial protections,” the White House wrote in a memo last week.

Labor and environmental groups and other trade critics argue that the pending TPP deal would increase fossil fuel extraction, worsening the impacts of climate change, send jobs overseas and expose American consumers to lower food safety standards.

In approving the motion to file cloture on the fast-track bill, “the majority of our senators chose corporate polluters over the American people,” Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Luisa Abbot Galvao said in a statement.

The motion sets up a final vote that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wants to get done by the end of the week.

It comes after Democrats filibustered the bill last week, dealing the Obama administration an embarrassing setback, before party leaders struck an agreement to move forward with the legislation.