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June 19, 2015

House Sends Fast-Track Trade Authority to Senate

The political horserace gets interesting in a muddled sort of way when Congress starts to consider free trade. On Thursday, the House sent a bill to the Senate that would give Barack Obama more power to enter into a free trade agreement with the countries arrayed around the Pacific. The bill, Trade Promotion Authority, passed on a 218-208 vote. Normally, it’s fairly easy to figure out where the major politicians will come down on an issue. Democrats will support Barack Obama, Republicans will stand on conservative principles, and the more moderate politicians will sway the vote. Not so on TPA. Last week, House Democrats stalled the piece of legislation that was supposed to convince them to give Obama additional authority. Thus, Republican leaders Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell pushed forward Obama’s agenda. Instead of splitting along party lines, the vote has been coming down between the moderates and the ideological edges of both parties. And it has left some casualties. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) was on the Republican whip team until he voted against a procedural vote on TPA. So he was booted out. Pearce opposed Obama’s trade proposal because it “leaves us in the small states out of the picture.” Now, TPA is back in the Senate without the legislation that helped grease it through the chamber like last time. Heritage Foundation’s Jim DeMint notes, “Instead of focusing on advancing free trade, the congressional process has turned into a special interest boondoggle.”

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