A last-minute bipartisan vote gave President Obama the power to expedite the trade bill process on Friday night, as the Senate voted 62-37 in favor of a six-year Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) measure. The TPA allows the president to submit trade agreements to Congress for approval without allowing them the ability to change any of the content within, thereby giving global trade partners ease of mind in signing pacts with the United States, supporters have argued. On Friday evening Senate Finance Chariman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters that the vote was a monumental one.
"It's important to President Obama, and it's important to a lot of us here in the chamber," said Hatch, calling efforts by Senate Democrats to stall the movement by suggesting amendments to the TPA unreasonable. "We're not going to do that," added Hatch. "Let's face it, we're not going to debate this all over again."
The debate over the TPA has been a closely watched battle because it has created strange bedfellows in both Congress and the Obama administration. Generally lauded by Republicans and shunned by Democrats, the TPA has jostled the usual partisan deference and pitted traditional allies against one another.
In early May, former Arkansas governor and 2016 candidate Mike Huckabee, who — along with Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — opposes the measure, called the hypothetical passage of the TPA a grievous error.
"Why do we ever want to again believe," said Huckabee, "that the government fast-tracking something without thoroughly understanding the implications is the best way to go?"