Trade and Customs Legislation Stalls in Senate
Congressional action on several key trade and customs bills will see a further delay after the Senate failed May 12 to bring a trade promotion authority bill to the floor. The vote on a procedural motion that would allow the Senate to begin consideration of TPA was 52-45, short of the 60 votes needed.
The setback appears to be due to a disagreement between Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who wants to combine into a single package TPA and separate measures to reauthorize trade preference programs, bolster customs enforcement and renew the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who wants the main bill to include only TPA and TAA and to address the other measures separately, possibly by allowing votes on whether to add them to the TPA/TAA bill as amendments. Supporters fear the latter approach would lower the chances that lawmakers would approve those provisions.
Press reports indicate that the effort to include stronger protections against foreign government manipulation of currency values, which some say has made it harder for U.S. companies to export goods overseas, is a particularly contentious issue. A currency provision was included in the customs authorization bill reported out of the Senate Finance Committee and has received support from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress but is opposed by the White House. At press time, reports indicated that President Obama was talking with congressional leaders on a way forward.