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Obama faces setback on his trade agreements agenda

Barack Obama

Washington:  US President Barack Obama has faced a setback from his own Democratic Senators who blocked efforts to begin a debate of a trade measure that would give the government greater authority to negotiate freely with other countries.

In an embarrassment to the Obama Administration, a motion to proceed with the trade bill and cut off filibuster fell short of 60 votes as it received 52-45 votes.

“Essentially what the Democrats are doing today by trying to block us from even getting on this legislation is throwing their own president under the bus,” said John Thune, Senate Republican Conference Chairman.

Later in the afternoon, Obama met Democratic Senators at the White House.

“Members in attendance reiterated their support for TPA legislation that will pave way for high-standard trade agreements that support good American jobs, protect our workers and environment and ensure that the US, and not countries like China, write the rules for the global economy,” the White House said.

Obama continues to push for the trade bill, “We have an opportunity to set the most progressive trade agreement in our nation’s history — with enforceable labour and environmental protections we simply can’t count on other nations to pursue,” he said in an email to his supporters.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the decision by Senate Democrats to block this bipartisan bill from moving forward is disappointing and a step backwards for already beleaguered economic recovery.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the simple fact is that to pass the Senate, bills must have strong Democratic support.

“Nearly every bill passed by the Senate this year has enjoyed the support of over 90 per cent of Senate Democrats,” he said.

“Senator McConnell needs to work with Democrats for our votes. I hope he will reconsider his approach,” Reid said.

Noting that more trade means more jobs for the American people, House Speaker John Boehner said this has always been a difficult issue for the president’s political party.

“But I hope that Democrats in both the House and Senate will put politics aside and do what’s best for the country.  The House will continue to work to advance trade promotion authority, but success will require the president and his party to rethink their approach to this important issue,” he said.

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