In a triumph of divided government, the Republican-controlled Congress passed major trade legislation Wednesday that was long-sought by President Barack Obama but vehemently opposed by most lawmakers in his party.
The measure to strengthen Obama’s hand in global trade talks cleared the Senate on a vote of 60-38, and goes to the White House for his signature — less than two weeks after it was temporarily derailed in the House in an uprising of Democratic lawmakers.
The rapid sequence of events capped the end of a back-and-forth struggle that played out slowly over months, with Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on one side, and the union-backed Democratic leadership of the House and Senate on the other.
On Wednesday, McConnell, a frequent Obama antagonist, praised the president and Democrats who joined the GOP on the bipartisan measure vigorously sought by the nation’s chief executive.
The measure would allow Obama to negotiate global trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. The administration was seeking the “fast track” as it works to complete a round of trade negotiations involving 12 nations along both sides of the Pacific Ocean, including Japan.
Obama’s victory comes at a pivotal juncture in his second term. He is bracing for a Supreme Court ruling on his landmark health care law, and next week’s deadline is approaching for reaching a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.