Updated May 13, 3:35 p.m.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday relented in their opposition to the consideration of legislation expediting trade agreements, just 24 hours after their vote blocking the bill put a temporary halt on President Obama’s trade agenda.
In exchange for allowing Trade Promotion Authority to move forward, Democrats will get to vote Thursday on bills cracking down on Chinese currency manipulation and giving preferential treatment to imports from African countries. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the deal on the Senate floor on Wednesday. Trade Promotion Authority allows the president to negotiate agreements that Congress must vote on without amendment. To secure Democratic votes, McConnell will combine that bill with a separate measure providing aid to workers displaced by foreign trade. Senate Democrats on Tuesday had demanded that McConnell package all four bills together, but he refused on the grounds that the currency proposal would have sunk the underlying trade legislation in the House. Now House Republicans can choose to ignore the currency and Africa measures even if they clear the Senate.
Tuesday’s rebuke of the president was hailed as a victory for the progressive activists led by Senator Elizabeth Warren. But the White House had downplayed it as a “procedural snafu,” and ultimately that might prove to be the case. Democrats will be able to tell their constituents they voted to crack down on China, but that bill is unlikely to become law. A final Senate vote on the fast-track trade bill is expected next week, and then it will face an even tougher path in the House, where a majority of liberal Democrats oppose Obama’s trade push.