Today, pro-trade members of the Senate won a major battle for free trade after they overcame a liberal filibuster levied against the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or “fast track” trade authority.

Coming into today’s cloture vote, analysts weren’t 100% sure that Republican leadership would be able to wrangle both their own caucus, and the 14 pro-trade members across the aisle, into agreement over TPA. Going into the weekend, Democrats remained concerned about shuffling the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) provisions to a separate vote, worrying that Republican leadership would go back on their word to advance the job funding program at a later date.

Also causing frustration for analysts was the sudden flip-flop of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz, who announced his run for the presidency earlier this year, today changed his vote on TPA from yea to nay in the wake of pressure from tea party lobbying groups.

Still, whatever influence Cruz mustered with his colleagues did not spill over into today’s vote, which was close, but still an important step toward approving the six year fast track authorization.

The Senate’s final vote on TPA is expected this afternoon or tomorrow.


After the vote, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) took to the mic to air his thoughts on the bipartisan nature of Congressional support for TPA:

“Occasionally, the President of the United States gets his policy choices right. And he did when it comes to Trade Promotion Authority, which I would point out to our friends and anybody listening that this actually is a six-year trade promotion authority. This extends well beyond the current occupants of the White House’s tenure and will be available for the next President of the United States to negotiate trade deals that are in the best interests of the United States.

… I believe we’ve actually kept the campaign promises we made last year that if the American people entrusted the Republicans with the new majority, we would work together with our allies where we could on the other side of the aisle, where we have common cause, to deliver results for the American people, to legislate in their best interest, not just obstruct for obstruction’s sake or to gain some temporary tactical or political advantage but to promote a functioning, deliberative United States Senate.”

I think he’s right. I’ve seen a lot of writing out there insisting that “if Obama wants it, we must oppose it,” which I think is a terrible policymaking tactic. 99% of the time, Barack Obama backs the most disgraceful, the laziest, and the most buzzword-filled approach to lawmaking; he’s not so much concerned with good policy as he is with legacy building. Since his legacy largely depends on how well he sells the ruin his presidency has become, it makes sense for him to rely on rhetoric.

The problem with treating Obama’s terribleness as dispositive is that it forces us to take our eye off the ball. (The truthfulness of this statement, of course, depends on what you believe your representative’s purpose in Congress is.) If my goal is to advance good policy, I’m going to operate under the assumption that I have a responsibility to read the bill in front of me, not the Twitter timeline of the bill’s sponsor.

Harry Reid’s Senate largely ignored the existence of the two-party system and acted like a rubber stamp for whatever progressive idea came sliding down into the hopper. Mitch McConnell’s Senate actually votes on things—and in the case of TPA, deliberation has revealed that some bills come down to more than just party lines.

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