WASHINGTON (June 19, 2015) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill June 18 by a 218-208 vote giving President Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate trade agreements.
The bill, which the House passed after rejecting it last week, means that Congress can advise the president on trade pacts, but cannot amend them once the administration has sent them to Capitol Hill for a vote.
Final passage of the fast-track bill would clear the way for congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.
Congressional Republicans generally support the TPP, but legislators in President Obama's own party say the trade agreement will ship U.S. manufacturing production and jobs overseas.
The United Steelworkers union, which organizes U.S. tire and rubber product workers, and other unions have spoken out vigorously against the TPP and sponsored rallies opposing the pact.
In a statement issued just after the House vote, USW International President Leo Gerard condemned the House for attaching the fast-track measure to a bill assuring pension rights to firefighters.
“This non-controversial bill was designed to secure the retirement benefits of first responders, not pit workers against workers,” Mr. Gerard said. “But that's exactly what the House forced today.”
The International Association of Firefighters also opposed attaching fast-track to the pension bill, claiming that their members were being politically exploited, Mr. Gerard said.
The fast-track bill now goes to the Senate.