The White House urged Congress to send trade legislation to President Obama for signing this week. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The White House on Tuesday urged the U.S. Congress to send trade legislation to President Barack Obama for signing this week. The U.S. Senate is headed toward showdown votes this week on legislation key to a Pacific trade pact, with some Democrats essential to passing the measure vowing to support it again and others undecided on whether to change their votes to oppose the bill. White House spokesman Josh Earnest, at his daily briefing, urged lawmakers to keep up the momentum and pass the legislation so Obama can sign it. A Senate vote on the legislation, known as fast-track negotiating power, was expected on Wednesday. Approval at that stage would send the bill to Obama for review. The debate-limiting motion was approved 60-37. "Today is a very big vote. It's an important moment for the country," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the chamber's top Republican, in urging support for Obama's trade agenda. Obama needs fast-track authority to complete the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, central to his signature foreign policy push to strengthen U.S. ties with Asia. The legislation has already endured six weeks of congressional wrangling. It twice brushed with failure after revolts by Obama's own Democrats, many of whom fear trade deals will threaten U.S. jobs. On the procedural vote, 13 of the chamber's 44 Democrats supported the legislation. They were joined 47 of the Senate's 54 Republicans, giving supporters of the legislation the 60 votes needed to proceed in the 100-member chamber. The bill itself now needs 51 votes to pass. If all goes according to Republican leaders' plans, Congress also would send Obama this week a bill renewing an aid program for workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade deals. The president wants both bills and he has left open the possibility of waiting for Congress to send him both before signing fast track into law. Fast-track legislation would let lawmakers set negotiating objectives for trade deals, including the TPP, but it would restrict them to yes-or-no votes on final agreements.