It’s too soon to label the first test vote in the great trade debate of 2015 as a harbinger of total collapse ahead. But the prognosticators, the party whips and the president already have some tally sheets providing strong evidence of a cliffhanger in the making.
Congress last approved similar legislation 13 years ago, which of course is a lifetime in rhythms of the place. Still, two messages may fairly be inferred from the positions taken back then by the lawmakers who remain in office today. Tuesday’s momentum-sapping roll call notwithstanding, at least three-fifths of senators are eager to vote to give President Barack Obama enhanced leverage to complete the expansive trade accord with 11 other nations on the Pacific Rim. Neither the hollowing out of the political center in the past decade, nor the fact that most senators were Democrats in the 107th Congress but most are Republicans now, has fundamentally changed the Senate’s personality as an ally of globalization.