CONTRARY TO SOME LOCAL NEWS REPORTS, the US Congress did not pass the Fast track or Trade Promotion Bill last night.
‘The procedures are complicated, hence the confusion’, says Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland.
The single Bill previously passed by the Senate was split procedurally into two votes, both of which had to pass.
The first vote on the package was on Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides assistance for workers who lose their jobs as a result of US free trade agreements, and was massively defeated by 302 to 126, with Democrats saying it did not go far enough.
In order to save face when the overall measure was defeated, the Republican leadership held a symbolic vote on the Fast Track authority portion, which narrowly passed by 219 to 211 votes.
That means the Fast Track bill did not pass in the House.
This is a serious defeat for President Obama who personally went to Congress to lobby Democrats just hours before the vote. House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi was among those who voted no.
There may be moves to seek a revote on the workers’ assistance bill next week to try to revive the package, but given the level of opposition in today’s vote, that seems unlikely to be successful.
‘So the Fast Track saga continues, and a proposed ministerial meeting remains on hold’, Kelsey said.