President Obama scored a victory for his trade plan today when the U.S. Senate approved a measure that would give the president the authority to negotiate international deals, but he did it without help from Rhode Island two Democratic senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Reed and Whitehouse were on the losing end of a 60 to 37 Senate vote. Both Rhode Islanders cited concerns that trade deals hurt American workers. Thirteen Democrats joined with 47 Republicans to push the trade pact to a final vote, which is likely to occur tomorrow.
While business interests supported the legislation, organized labor was staunchly against it.
``I support strong, free and fair trade,’’ said Reed in a statement. ``But Congress has the duty to carefully weigh the benefits and risks of any major deal, and I believe that the scope and complexity of modern trade agreements demand more time for debate and a greater ability to contribute than the TPA provides. For these reasons I oppose granting the fast track trade promotion authority.’’
Said Whitehouse, ``I’m disappointed that my colleagues voted to prohibit Congress from improving future trade agreements. Past trade pacts have hurt Rhode Island workers, and I believe we need a new trade policy that puts jobs, our environment, and worker safety ahead of the interests of international corporations.’’
Other opponents, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Democrat both, warned that the fast-track trade approach would cost thousands of American jobs and allow multi-national corporations to evade U.S. law.