President Barack Obama arrives to speak about trade policy at Nike Headquarters on May 8, 2015 in Beaverton, Oregon.National Journal

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The Senate has advanced legislation that paves the way for a sweeping trade pact with Asian nations, handing a win to President Obama, business groups, and Republicans just days after a partisan spat threatened to derail the measure.

Lawmakers, in a 65-33 procedural vote, agreed to move forward on the bill to grant Obama "fast track" power to steer trade deals through Congress that cannot be amended or filibustered. The fast-track authority is crucial to winning passage for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would strengthen the economic ties of 12 countries composing 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

The support of pro-free trade Democrats allowed the bill to advance two days after those same senators refused to support an earlier GOP plan.

Intense negotiation and White House lobbying produced a plan that led Democrats to back off their resistance and enable fast-track, or Trade Promotion Authority, to proceed.

It also ensured Democrats votes on a trade measure with African nations and a trade-enforcement bill, which included controversial provisions forcing the administration to get tough with countries that undervalue their currencies to boost their exports.

Both passed easily Thursday, but the currency provisions face trouble in the House—Speaker John Boehner called it "laughable" that Congress could legislate how countries value their currencies—and resistance from the White House, which argues the measure could imperil the wider trade agenda. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who has pushed for the provisions, reiterated Thursday that he would not push for them to be added to the TPA bill in deference to the White House.

"I'm against it, but I'm not trying to use currency to kill the TPA bill," he said.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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