Early Wednesday, Sanders forced the Senate Finance Committee to abandon a legislative hearing on a bill that would grant Obama so-called fast-track authority on trade agreements. Sanders invoked an arcane procedural maneuver, objecting to a rule that allows committees to meet during legislative sessions. By doing so, Sanders has prevented the Finance Committee from dealing with the trade bill until at least 4:00 p.m.
That’s significant because Senate Democrats, including Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), have prepared dozens of amendments to the fast-track bill, which will take several hours to address in committee. If the panel can’t finish its work Wednesday, or just decides to call it a day early and resume its business tomorrow, Sanders can raise the same objection again, potentially delaying the process for several days.It turned out to be more symbolic than significant. Chairman Orrin Hatch vowed the committee would work deep into the night to get to a final vote, and they eventually came away advancing it by 20-6. Only Richard Burr voted no among the Republicans, while Democrats split: 7 yes (Wyden, Cantwell, Nelson, Carper, Cardin, Bennet, Warner), five no (Schumer, Stabenow, Menendez, Brown, Casey). Sherrod Brown had introduced 88 amendments, but most of them never got a vote.
Ron Wyden, the Administration’s stalking horse on the bill, was the only Democrat to vote with all Republicans to cut Trade Adjustment Assistance, basically a cash payoff for workers affected by trade bills. Wyden said specifically that he was acting with the support of the Administration on that.
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