President Barack Obama signed a bill giving him “fast-track” powers to conduct and conclude trade legislation. The bill was approved by Congress last week after months of contentious debate and several difficult votes.
In addition to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), as the fast-track bill is officially called, the president signed the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) act, extending aid to US workers who might lose their jobs as a consequence of free-trade deals.
The two bills were originally bundled together in both the Senate and the House of Representatives as a way of securing bipartisan support. However, Obama faced an uphill battle within his own party, as the House Democrats rejected TAA in order to hold TPA hostage.
After weeks of talks with party leadership and several close roll calls in both the House and the Senate, the bills were voted on separately and approved last week. Most Republican lawmakers backed the president, whose insistence on the trade deals strained relations with the Democrats’ traditional power base of labor unions and environmental groups.