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US Congress passes key trade bill in victory for Obama

Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 06:54
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) talks to reporters with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) (L) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) after the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.

[WASHINGTON] After weeks of political wrangling President Barack Obama scored a key victory Wednesday with Congress passing legislation that allows him to swiftly negotiate a Pacific trade accord.

Mr Obama relied on a majority of Republicans to get the measure, which passed the House of Representatives last week, across the finish line with a vote of 60 to 38 in the Senate.

The so-called trade promotion authority expands Mr Obama's powers to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals and present them to Congress for an up-or-down vote, without lawmakers able to pick apart the accord.

Fifteen pro-trade Democrats joined all but five Republicans in supporting the measure.

The Senate is also voting Wednesday on a bill that reinstates a worker aid program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which helps American workers displaced by globalisation, and on trade benefits for developing nations, mainly in Africa.

The TAA measure still requires passage by the House, where its fate is uncertain because several Democrats may choose to oppose a program they support because it is linked to the TPA measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hailed the TPA vote as a "win" for the American middle class.

"Achieving this positive outcome was never going to be easy, but it proves that the power of a good idea, no matter where it comes from, can win out over the stasis of gridlock," he said.

AFP