Senate passes TPA bill
May 21, 2015
The Senate on May 14 passed a motion to move forward with the debate on the bill to grant President Barack Obama trade promotion authority.
The vote was 65 to 33 with 13 democrats joining all republicans in voting for the measure.
The Senate also voted 97 to 1 to pass the trade preference bill, and voted 78 to 20 to pass the customs bill, including the provision to make currency manipulation subject to trade remedy laws.
Sens. Bill Cafferty, R-La., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, did not vote on any of the trade measures today.
When the Senate voted 65 to 33 to move to debate on the bill to provide trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama, all Republican senators who voted on the measure voted "yes," but only 13 Democrats voted for it.
Most Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee voted "no."
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Two Democratic members of the Senate Agriculture Committee – Michael Bennet of Colorado and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – and one Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee (Dianne Feinstein of California) joined the Republicans in voting for the cloture motion.
Seven Democrats on the Agriculture Committee voted against the measure: Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania; Joe Donnelly of Indiana; and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who also serves on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Four other Democratic members of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee joined Leahy to vote against the measure: Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who is subcommittee chairman; Jon Tester of Montana; Tom Udall of New Mexico; and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., today called for a "strong vote in the Senate" to help encourage House members to vote for the bill to grant trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama.
"It's important coming out of the Senate we have a big vote," Thune said at a news conference with several other Republican senators and farm leaders discussing the importance of trade agreements to agriculture.
Thune made the statement just before the vote on the motion to proceed with debate, but it was clear he meant a big vote on final passage would be helpful in convincing House members to support it.
Thune said he hopes the Senate will finish the bill before the Memorial Day break, but that Democratic opposition may mean that the Senate doesn't finish the bill until June.
Thune said he expects "a spirited debate" with "some hard votes on amendments."
He acknowledged that granting the authority to Obama makes it difficult for some Republicans to vote for the measure.
Thune noted that the United States exports half its wheat, soybean and rice crops and large amounts of almonds, poultry and pork.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., noted that "in Montana, agriculture is our number one industry" and more than 80 percent of the Montana wheat crop is exported.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said he worried "about the future of rural America" and that trade agreements will make crops and cattle more valuable.
"From Main Street to Malaysia, trade is good for Colorado, good for rural America," Gardner said.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said that TPA "is a big deal for Kansas, it is a big deal for farm country."
Leaders from the American Soybean Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the California Farm Bureau also spoke at the news conference to promote TPA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
–editor's note: see the May 9, 2015 edition of Tri-State Livestock News for an in-depth look at Trade Promotion Authority.