A key plank of President Obama’s trade agenda won final approval in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, capping a dramatic few weeks that saw the legislation nearly collapse amid Democratic infighting.
The Senate voted 60-38 for a bill giving Obama so-called “fast track” authority to negotiate trade deals. The bill, already approved by the House, now goes to Obama’s desk.
The vote marks a remarkable turnaround for an initiative that House Democrats nearly killed earlier this month.
Though both parties have been divided on the issue, it was particularly problematic in the Democratic caucus – in the end, Obama’s biggest allies were Republican congressional leaders.
Opening Senate debate on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a frequent Obama antagonist, credited the president and Democrats who joined the GOP on the bipartisan measure.
"We were really pleased to see President Obama pursue an idea we've long believed in," McConnell said. "We thank him for his efforts to help us pass a bill to advance it."
The “fast track" authority would let Obama negotiate deals that Congress can ratify or reject, but not change.