Rhode Island’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, were both on the winning side as President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats derailed one of the president’s top priorities, voting to hold up so-called fast track trade authority unless other provisions designed to protect American jobs are included in the legislation.
The trade legislation, opposed vigorously by organized labor but supported by the high-technology business community, went down on a 52 to 45 vote. Sixty votes were needed to begin a formal debate on the legislation that would clear the path for approval of the Pacific trade deal and other legislation that would give relief to workers affected by trade deals.
``It would have been a mistake to provide fast-track authority for trade agreements that could further undermine American wages, manufacturing jobs, and our environment,’’ said Whitehouse, in a statement. ``Past deals have hurt Rhode Island workers, and we should review future deals carefully to make sure we’re not repeating the kind of mistakes that have resulted in local jobs moving overseas.’’
Meanwhile, a group of leading Senate Democrats, including Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Ben Cardin, D-MD, Sherrod Brown, D-OH and Chris Coons, D-DE, held a news conference to request that all four trade bills be rolled into a single package of legislation.