Senate poised to hand Obama big victory on negotiating trade

Senate Gives Obama Huge Win On Trade

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress was poised to hand President Barack Obama a major victory on trade Wednesday, with the Senate set to approve "fast track" negotiating authority and House Democrats dropping their opposition to a part of the legislative package.

The developments represented a remarkable turnabout for an initiative that House Democrats nearly killed this month.

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Senate poised to hand Obama big victory on negotiating trade
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) (C) talks with reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (L) talks to reporters with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) talks with reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) (R) talks to reporters following the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (C) talks to reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is pursued by reporters following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) talks to reporters with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) (L) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) after the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed an important procedural vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, which would grant President Barack Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete a major trade accord, clearing the way for final passage as early as Wednesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 09: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) answers questions as members of the Republican leadership speak about the Defense Authorization Bill following caucus luncheons at the U.S. Capitol June 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: Members of the House depart for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (L) walks through the halls of Congress before a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 12: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) walks through the halls of Congress before a series of critical votes at the US Capitol June 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats voted down legislation that would grant aid to workers displaced by trade, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the fast-track legislation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Opening Senate debate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a frequent Obama antagonist, credited the president and Democrats who joined the GOP on the bipartisan measure long sought by a president nearing the end of his second term.

"We were really pleased to see President Obama pursue an idea we've long believed in," said McConnell, R-Ky. "We thank him for his efforts to help us pass a bill to advance it."

A final potential hurdle in the House crumbled when Democratic leaders said most colleagues would support a job retraining program that Obama wants.

Some anti-free-trade Democrats had urged defeat of a program meant to help workers displaced by trade agreements. Some saw the possible demise of the usually Democratic favorite as a possible way to pressure Obama not to sign fast track into law.

Obama has said he expects to enact the fast-trade measure and the retraining bill simultaneously. But with fast track headed to Obama, House Democrats acknowledged that there was no realistic way to force the president's hand.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told colleagues that she would vote for trade adjustment assistance. Pelosi said it's time to start scrutinizing global trade agreements that Congress eventually will have to decide.

Other Democrats said they expect heavy support for the retraining program.

Unions and most congressional Democrats say free-trade deals cost U.S. jobs and reward countries that pollute and mistreat workers. But Obama and most Republican leaders say U.S. products must reach broader markets.

Approval of fast track would boost Obama's hopes for a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade agreement that is essential to his effort to expand U.S. influence in Asia. Negotiating parties include Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada.

If granted fast-track authority, Obama would ask Congress to ratify the Pacific deal after the public has weeks or months to study it.

Some anti-trade groups say they will strongly oppose the Pacific pact. Others seem more resigned to the likelihood of new U.S. trade agreements in Obama's final months in office.

President Barack Obama - Profile | InsideGov

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