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US Congress passes key trade bill in victory for Obama

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.

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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.


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