WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate is headed toward showdown votes this week on legislation key to a Pacific trade pact, and two Democrats essential to passing the measure on Monday said they would support it, although some colleagues may change their votes to oppose the bill.
Sens. Ron Wyden and Bill Nelson, two of 14 Democrats who backed a bill to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress last month, said they would again vote “yes” on a measure that has divided their party and put most congressional Democrats at odds with President Barack Obama, also a Democrat.
The legislation would let lawmakers set objectives for trade deals like the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but restrict them to a yes-or-no vote on the final deal.
Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee and one of the architects of the bill, said he held round-the-clock discussions over the last week with Republican leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives and with leading Democrats.
“The trade package currently before the Senate is a blueprint for trade done right,” Wyden said in a statement.
Senators are having to vote again on fast-track because of changes the House made to the legislation. The Senate passed the bill on a vote of 62-37 last month, and it needs 60 votes for fast-track to pass a procedural hurdle on Tuesday and proceed to a second vote.
Nelson told Reuters that he too would support fast track in votes this week.
There could be some Democrats who switch their votes to “no,” he said, but he predicted it would pass nonetheless.
Obama is hoping Congress approves fast-track legislation that would help him complete negotiations this year on the TPP, which would help facilitate trade among countries ranging from Japan to Chile.