Senators passed the first major free trade bill in years late Friday, with more than a dozen pro-trade Democrats linking arms with most Republicans to grant President Obama a major legislative victory — and powers to conclude a Pacific trade deal.
The legislation, which cleared on a 62-37 vote, still needs House action, and that is likely to be a tougher test, with Democrats in the lower chamber less inclined toward free trade.
But the vote is still a substantial victory for Mr. Obama, who has staked his personal prestige on winning a legacy-enhancing trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership. Friday’s vote was on fast-track negotiating powers, known as Trade Promotion Authority, that will allow Mr. Obama to complete negotiations on the 12-nation TPP.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who led the fight for the TPA, said just ahead of the vote on what he called “likely the most important bill we’ll pass this year.”