-- President Obama's proposed trade deal faced its first test in the Senate today, with a critical vote on whether to move forward on legislation giving President Obama "fast-track" authority to make trade deals.
But in an odd twist, most Republicans favor it while Senate Democrats are in full revolt against it. This fast-track authority paves the way for a massive 12-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Senate Democrats filibustered today to block the motion to proceed on the president's trade deal with a vote of 52-45, falling eight votes shy of the 60 votes needed.
The problem? Senate Democrats demand that all four proposed trade bills -- fast-track, along with Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a customs enforcement bill and a trade package for African countries -- be included in a single bill before the Senate even considers opening up a debate on the legislation.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Democrats would prefer for three other trade bills to be combined with fast-track instead of voting only on fast-track.
"There's a large feeling in our caucus that we want all those four put together before we move forward," Schumer said last week.
This is one of those rare moments where Senate Republicans are aligned with President Obama on an issue while many of his loyal Democrats oppose his free-trade deal.
The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, co-authored the fast-track bill, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Republicans pressed Wyden to side with the president, while urging him to persuade enough Democrats to vote for the bill. Despite being a key player on the bill, Wyden voted against it.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had threatened to block a vote on the trade deal until the Senate takes up highway funding and government surveillance. Reid also voted against the bill.
"We have cooperated with Republicans. We still want to do that," Reid said on the Senate floor today. "I have been very clear. I am not a fan of fast-track, but it is important to remember that the Senate's ongoing debate about trade is not limited to legislation granting President Obama fast-track trade authority."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, possibly one of the most prominent critics of President Obama's trade deal, said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition that she doesn't know how the president has wound up so far from her on the trade issue.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has entered a motion to reconsider the vote.