In a stunning defeat for President Obama, the Senate Tuesday voted down giving the president Trade Promotion Authority (so-called “fast track”) to make it easier to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive 11-nation trade deal, without amendments.
By failing to reach the 60-vote threshold to reach cloture and cutoff debate, the bill remains very much in doubt. The upper chamber voted 52-45, with every Democrat voting “no” except for Delaware’s Tom Carper.
The defeat is a big win for the forces of anti-free trade within the Democratic Party, especially Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren has publicly classed the Mr. Obama in the past few days leading up to vote.
It is also a sign that Democrats are struggling to define what they’re party will stand for after the president leaves office in 2017.
Likely 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has largely stayed silent on the TTP and fast-track authority since announcing for president about a month ago. Although, while a member of the Obama cabinet, Secretary of State Clinton strongly backed the free trade deal, indicating she has seen the shifting political winds in her party has changed course.
While the bill is likely to come back up for a vote in the next two weeks before Congress goes on recess, the fate of TPP and the consensus on free trade with in the Democratic Party since the days of Bill Clinton and the largely successful Nafta agreement remains very much in doubht.