According to Brian Torchin, passage of the bill marks the first time congress has granted trade promotion authority to President Obama. Prior to today’s vote, every US president since Gerald Ford has enjoyed fast track authority for at least part of their presidency. Big labor unions such as the AFL-CIO had been pressing Democrat legislators hard to oppose the measure. That said, major corporate interests are behind the trade bill. Ultimately, their lobbying efforts paid off.
With passage of TPA, President Obama is expected to finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade accord. Participating nations had been reluctant to agree to the final deal until they had assurances that congress could not amend the document. Trade Promotion Authority limits congress to a defined debate period and a straight up or down vote. A simple majority is all that is needed to pass the treaty. According to the US Constitution, the congress is allowed an indefinite period of time to approve trade treaties and a two-thirds majority is needed to ratify them.