The U.S. Senate on Thursday agreed 65 to 33 to take a vote on House Bill 1314, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, which approves "fast-track" trade authority. The vote is expected next week.
The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee previously passed the TPA legislation in April.
On Tuesday, the fate of the bill was looking much different in the Senate as some legislators suggested additional provisions should be added that would address currency manipulation and humanitarian issues. Ultimately there wasn't enough support to move forward on the bill as it stood.
The Democratic President Obama lists trade agreement approval as one of his priorities before leaving office next year. His press secretary this week compared the Senate's early actions on TPA to a "procedural snafu"; some pundits commented that that characterization down-played events.
Despite the back-and-forth, ag groups said Senate's Thursday reversal and decision to take up the TPA is bill is an important one for farmers.
"Trade is essential to the livelihoods of American farmers, as well as the one million people whose jobs depend on agricultural trade," NCGA President Chip Bowling said in a statement. "TPA legislation is critical to removing trade barriers, expanding our access to global markets, and ensuring farmers get the best possible deal in trade agreements."
The TPA limits Congress to only and up or down vote on trade deals, but the bill requires the White House to be fully transparent with what's included in the agreements, and consult with Congress throughout the negotiation process, an area that has been a sticking point for TPA opponents.
Supporters of TPA, however, say it gives potential trading partners certainty that the U.S. Congress will not significantly alter agreed-upon deals, and shows the U.S. is serious about finalizing a trade deal.
The TPA legislation comes as negotiators are working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation agreement with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the U.S. Together, the countries account for about 40% of global GDP.
Senators are hoping to complete the bill before heading home for the Memorial Day recess. Even if it is approved before then, however, it may have an even tougher road in the House, where more opposition is expected.