Senate Advances Trade Authority Bill

The bigger hurdle will be the House, where Democrats are lined up against the proposal.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to move forward with legislation that would give the White House greater authority over new trade agreements.

The vote came two days after the chamber fell short of the threshold to begin debate on the Trade Promotion Authority bill.

TPA would allow Congress to set trade agreement parameters but restricts its ability to amend the final pact; passage of the bill through Congress would likely set the stage for the U.S. to enter into the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

Tuesday's vote was characterized as a rebuke to the Obama administration, which lobbied hard for passage of TPA in recent weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, mustered opposition to the initial vote in hopes of including other Democratic priorities in a legislative package. On Wednesday, however, lawmakers reached a deal to take up those priorities as stand-alone bills.

Prior to the trade authority vote, the Senate passed a trade package aimed at African nations and a bill designed to penalize nations accused of manipulating currency. Critics allege that manipulation by China and Japan led to an increasing U.S. trade deficit and substantial job losses.

The chamber then voted to move forward with debate on the TPA bill by a 65-33 margin.

Despite Tuesday's vote, observers largely expected TPA to eventually clear the Senate.

The bigger hurdle will likely be the House, where Democrats are largely lined up against the proposal and Republicans appear shy of the votes needed for passage. House Speaker John Boehner this week predicted eventual passage of the bill.