U.S. lawmakers narrowly approved legislation key to securing a hallmark Pacific trade deal on Thursday, partly reversing a defeat less than a week before, in a boost to President Barack Obama’s goal of strengthening U.S. economic ties with Asia.
The House of Representatives voted 218 to 208 to give the White House authority to close trade deals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which encompasses 40 percent of the global economy and is close to completion.
But the bill, a stripped-down version of legislation which failed at a vote last week, must now go back to the Senate for approval, where a vote is likely next week.
The House has been wrestling for weeks with fast-track authority, which lets lawmakers set negotiating objectives for trade deals, such as the TPP, but restricts them to a yes-or-no vote on the finished agreement.
Democrats last week dramatically rejected a personal appeal from Obama to back legislation central to his hallmark Pacific Rim trade deal by voting down a companion measure to renew an expiring program to help workers hurt by trade.
The trade package consists of three basic components.
That measure was cut from the bill approved on Thursday, but the change from the original legislation ensures a return to the Senate, delaying final passage further.
In debate before the vote, many Democrats lined up on the House floor to voice their anger with Obama’s trade initiative.
“This thing is modeled after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which cost us 5 million jobs,” said veteran Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter.