A day after Senate Democrats delivered what was widely described as a “stinging rebuke” — really, is there any other type of rebuke? — to President Obama by blocking the Fast Track bill from advancing, Senate negotiators are nearing a deal to move it forward.
According to several Senate sources — whose accounts match up with what some reporters are spilling forth on the twitters — the deal between Senate Dems and Republicans looks something like this:
1) The Senate would vote first on a package that includes a measure stiffening enforcement on foreign companies evading import duties and a measure that would force the administration to take action against countries manipulating currency to juice exports. Those were chiefly sought by Senators Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer. There might also be a vote on a measure that would favor U.S. imports of some products from certain African countries.
2) Then the Senate would proceed to a vote on whether to move forward with Fast Track, which would mandate that a final Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is subject only to an up-or-down Congressional vote, with no amendments or filibusters. The vote on Fast Track would also include Trade Adjustment Assistance, which helps workers hurt by trade policies. Presumably, if the first two above items sought by Dems pass, a group of around a dozen pro-trade Democrats — who helped block Fast Track yesterday — would then vote to move it forward.
Previously, that group of pro-trade Democrats had joined the filibuster of the Fast Track vote because it only included assistance for workers displaced by trade, and not the currency manipulation or enforcement provisions.
Yesterday’s defeat of Fast Track has been widely mischaracterized as a victory only for the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party. In reality, it was the move by pro-TPP Dems that helped engineer yesterday’s loss; Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer managed to keep pro-TPP Democrats united in opposition to Fast Track in an effort to maximize Dem leverage over the process. If the current deal under discussion is finalized, those Democrats will all but certainly vote for Fast Track, allowing it to move forward in the Senate — despite continued opposition from the Warren-ites.
Republicans are crowing that Democrats caved. They point out that Dems wanted all four provisions packaged into one vote, and argue that the barrage of headlines about Dems bucking Obama forced them to back down. In fairness, though, the emerging compromise looks like just that: A compromise, in which Dems are getting some of what they wanted.
Does this mean that Fast Track will pass? Not necessarily. If Fast Track gets past the first procedural vote, next up is an open amendment process. Even if Fast Track does ultimately pass the Senate, then it has to get through the House, which could prove even tougher. But today’s events are a reminder that Fast Track is anything but dead. And if it keeps moving forward, Hillary Clinton just may feel compelled one of these days to tell us what she thinks of it.