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June 21, 2015

Trade Promotion Authority Advances; Work On Other Trade Legislation Continues

A week after a dramatic series of votes that saw the defeat of a combined bill to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and extend Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) extension, U.S. House leaders separated the two issues and passed TPA, or “fast track” negotiating authority renewal, last Thursday on a 218 to 208 vote. (Click here to see how your representative voted on this matter and click here to see your representative’s fully voting record on MSCI’s issues.)  

The TPA renewal bill will now move to the Senate, where it is unclear whether or not it will pass. According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will need at least 11 Democrats to vote for TPA since five Republicans are expected to vote against it. The Senate passed TPA in May, but at that point the legislation had additional support because it was packaged together with other trade legislation, including the TAA extension. Now that TPA has been separated from those other bills, it’s likely it will receive fewer votes in the upper chamber. 

The Senate will hold a procedural vote on the TPA bill on Tuesday morning. If at least 60 senators vote for that measure, the chamber will then have up to 30 hours to debate the bill. After the debate, the chamber will vote on final passage and then consider a procedural motion that will allow debate to more forward on TAA extension. If at least 60 senators vote for that motion, the chamber will debate TAA and then proceed to a final vote on the extension. 

President Barack Obama has indicated he will sign an extension of fast track negotiating authority whether or not the TAA bill passes. 

Meanwhile, members of the House and Senate are also expected to meet soon to discuss a customs bill that includes important trade language. As Connecting the Dots reported last week, a House-passed customs bill stipulates that U.S. negotiators cannot use free trade agreements to address climate change and also a provision strengthening the federal government’s ability to fully investigate dumping by other countries. While the Senate bill does not include that language, it does include an important provision that will allow the federal government to address currency manipulation. That provision would require the Commerce Department to investigate allegations of currency manipulation and consider countervailing duties to address it. 

 MSCI is hopeful lawmakers will add the Senate language back into the bill during the House-Senate negotiations. MSCI believes failure to include this provision would put hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs at risk and weaken the United States’ negotiating position by sending a message to potential trading partners that our federal leaders won’t hold them accountable. If the conference committee agrees to the Senate-passed currency provision, MSCI will urge final passage of the customs bill and will fully support extension of Trade Promotion Authority.